CBSO Mahler Two review


Symphony Hall *****
28 years and one day after the CBSO under Simon Rattle officially opened Symphony Hall with Mahler's Second Symphony (Princess Anne in the audience), the orchestra recreated the occasion, this time conducted by Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla (and with Anne's brother, Prince Edward, in the audience now). .
The work has for decades been a signature piece for the CBSO, vastly important in the orchestra's history, conducted by all its music directors since Louis Fremaux, through Rattle, Sakari Oramo, Andris Nelsons, and now Mirga. It's also a signature piece for Symphony Hall; I can think of no finer venue for the work's demands, with its clear, responsive acoustic, its ability to accommodate all Mahler's offstage and onstage extras, and a blazing organ (something we didn't have 28 years ago).
For all the seeming extravagance of its forces, the symphony often reduces its textures to chamber proportions, and in this reading Mirga allowed her solo players -- violin, woodwinds, ruminative brass -- plenty of breathing-space between the turmoil and tension of this huge journey from writhing creation (spikily delivered) to exultant Resurrection.
Balances were judiciously managed, climaxes arose and subsided, and there was an electricity even in the well-placed silences.
Soprano Lucy Crowe and mezzo Karen Cargill sang as part of the overall team (no "listen to me"), and David Lawrence's CBSO Chorus delivered a huge range of stunning dynamics in a work they have made so much their own the world over. Only an ever-so-slightly-tentative opening entry could be laid against their door.
The triumphant noise of the finale drew a predictable standing ovation. I hope this was for the performance, and not for the bombast. Do the deliciously quiet ending of Mahler Four, or the world-weary farewell of Mahler Nine ever get a standing ovation?
Christopher Morley

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