sat 18/11/2017

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Rattle, Royal Festival Hall | reviews, news & interviews

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Rattle, Royal Festival Hall

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Rattle, Royal Festival Hall

Dream team so near to heaven in Mahler's Third Symphony - until the end

Yesterday morning's rehearsal of Mahler's Third Symphony. Principal viola on the right is Amihai Grosz, founder member of the Jerusalem QuartetAlexander Newton

So the Berlin Phiharmonic’s high-profile five-day residency staked its ultimate curtain-calls on one of the most spiritual adagio-finales in the symphonic repertoire (most of the others, like this one to the Third Symphony, are by Mahler). We knew the masterful Sir Simon's micromanagement and the Berlin beauty of tone would look to the first five movements of the Third's world-embracing epic. But would the sixth flame, as it must, with pulsing inner light and strength of long-term line?

This interpretation would surely win a gold medal among all-time live performances for its sheer unflagging fidelity to Mahler's punishingly detailed dynamics

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Rattle's micro-management does seem to kill the emotional high that Mahler 3 should bring. Everything was perfectly played (apart from a mess with the trumpets in the adagio) but it was cold and clinical for me. I feel the same disappointment with the recently issued CD of Mahler 2 I got much more enjoyment from Runnicles and the BBC Scottish SO at the Proms and even more so from Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra in Symphony Hall, Birmingham in October 2008.

I've always found difficulty convincing myself that Mahler 3 is coherent and not over-long. No more - that performance from SSR and his merry mensch tonight has transformed the piece from an ugly duckling to a swan to these ears. Maybe not as startling a rendition as the first 2 movements of Mahler 4 at the Barbican - but the same kind of 'nachtmusic' feel in the 3rd movement that I've never experienced before. Yes - we heard the trumpet fluff but my over-riding impression was of an engrossing 'whole' performance of a piece I've always been a little lukewarm towards. I tend to feel the same about the 7th and 8th as well, maybe I just need to hear a similarly great performance of those to be won over. The standing ovation in the hall seemed genuine enough to me based on what people had just heard, rather than just because of who the performers were. If they have plans to record then I for one would buy without hesitation, even though I already have many versions on the shelf. The glissandi though? Wasn't expecting them but they didn't sound 'wrong' on the night.

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