The sense of joy in music
Théatre du Châtelet
Bach-Mahler : Suite for orchestra
Gustav Mahler : Lieder aus Des Knaben Wunderhorn
B Bonney, Sara Fulgoni, Rudolf Schasching, Matthias Goerne
Orchestre du Concertgebouw d’Amsterdam, Riccardo Chailly
In the recent years, conductors have developed a bad habit of playing Mahler as if his works were only orchestral showpieces, made to have an orchestra shine and its member compete for best solo awards. This was the problem with some recent Paris performances like the 3rd symphony under C Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic or to a lesser extend Ozawa and his Boston Symphony Orchestra in the second.
The sense of joy in music making that Chailly, his soloists and orchestra gave on their Parisian visit was all the more of a welcome change.
In these days of musical political correctness, non baroque orchestra may not have as many occasions to play Bach as before. Mahler’s re-orchestrated Bach suite with a modern day orchestra in mind. It was a work he frequently performed during his tenure in New York (HL de la Grange’s indispensable Mahler biography has more details). It includes the famous Air for strings is no far in spirit from the adagietto, as well as the badinerie where the flute solo shares the famous tune with the strings. The result was played with considerable enjoyment and also fun by the Amsterdamers.
In the second part 2, Chailly played the full set of the lieder from the folk settings des Knaben Wundehorn. Chailly decided to have these songs shared by no less than four singers, and four excellent ones. This enabled to achieve a great variety of colors in the different works. Revelge, given to the tenor was even more Wagnerian and Tristan-like than usual. The Ulicht has to be done by a mezzo (congratulations to the oboe solo of the orchestra for his sensitive accompaniment there).
I was hearing M Goerne for the first time, and certainly not the last: his sense of words and legato line and especially in his ability to vary the different characters in his songs was superb. B Bonney is now the accomplished lieder singer as we all know and this work is basically ideally suited to her. She ended the evening with the last movement of the 4th symphony, probably the most "Wunderhorn-ish" piece Mahler ever wrote.
But in final, what came out of this evening was a sense of all artists, singers, orchestra and conductors enjoying every second of music making, sharing with the audience this sense of occasion. At such a high level of artistry, it is a rare feat these days that one wishes to experience again.