Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gilbert and the NY Philharmonic play Mahler, make blogger euphoric

It's difficult for me to be write objectively about music I love, such as Mahler's symphonies. So if the following review is more than a little gushing, please keep that in mind.

I expected to be impressed with Alan Gilbert's interpretation of Mahler's Symphony No. 3 and I was not disappointed. From the beginning of the symphony to the closing chords, Gilbert was in complete control. He held together the immense forces before him yet stayed out of the way and didn't let his direction overshadow the music. I noticed elements of the score that I hadn't heard before, and I like to think I know this music well after years of listening to it and even playing it once. The quietest drumbeats were as clear as the loudest declarations from the brass section. Gilbert did an excellent job keeping the musicians together despite the distance between them, especially when a solo violin played a duet with the principal horn. During the third movement's offstage post-horn solo, the audience was quieter than I've ever heard in that hall. It was as if time had stopped while the unseen soloist played. When the rest of the orchestra joined him a few measures later, you could feel the audience relax. And when the last movement started, I felt the same chills I had three years ago when I played this symphony with NYRO. At the climax of the movement, when the entire orchestra plays the theme, the strings did something I rarely see from a world-class orchestra: they bowed freely. I remember running out of bow on each note of that section. The Philharmonic's strings avoided that problem by bowing each note freely. It looked odd but sounded brilliant. I don't think I've ever heard a D major chord as gorgeous as the one at the end of last night's performance. The hall got a little dusty as the music came to a close.

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