Mahler at the Royal Albert Hall

Yesterday evening at the Royal Albert Hall the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was conducted by Daniele Gatti in excerpts from Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn, and his First Symphony.

Des Knaben Wunderhorn is a collection of German folk poems assembled in the early 1800s: Mahler set a number of these and six were performed by baritone James Rutherford, replacing at short notice Detlef Roth who was ill. Rutherford sang them well - I did wonder whether his voice was strong enough for such a large hall, but as I was very close I couldn't really tell. (In fact I was close enough to hear Gatti making various vocal noises as he conducted... someone should tell him).

The songs range from the military through the bucolic to the funereal: one, 'Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt' ('Saint Anthony of Padua Preaches to the Fishes') is familiar since the orchestral part turns up almost unchanged as the third movement to Mahler's Second Symphony. The music paints a vivid picture of the German countryside which is also evident in the Symphony.

The First Symphony has somehow collected the nickname 'The Titan', which, although the ending is spectacular, is inappropriate given that the opening movement suggests dawn in the countryside and there is also a mildy bizarre funeral march which is closely related to 'Frére Jacques'.

As usual with Mahler the work requires a huge orchestra - not so much to produce a high volume level but to allow for a very wide range of tone colours in the orchestration. Despite the hall's very long reverberation time the inner clarity and warmth of the sound was impressive: I felt that Gatti dragged the opening of the first movement a bit and then speeded it up a bit too much: but otherwise it was an excellent and involving performance.

Posted: Fri - March 16, 2007 at 10:44 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM