There must have been a lot of cash slopping around in the music world in Mahler’s day. Imagine taking a new work to a symphony management today and saying “I’ve got this hour and a half long piece that needs a star mezzo and three choirs for about ten minutes. Fancy giving it a shot? Oh and it needs a bazillion players in the brass section.” Anyway that’s Mahler’s 3rd symphony for you and the TSO did it last night with Jamie Barton as soloist and the ladies of three choirs plus a children’s chorus. All in all it had far too much of the Mahler I don’t much care for; repetitively bombastic, and not enough of the kind I do; the bits with a kind of ethereal transcendent beauty. And it really goes on a bit. The last movement in particular has so many climaxes, and anti climaxes, that, at the end, the audience weren’t sure that it was really, finally over. I’ll take the 2nd or the 8th or one of the shorter pieces over this one anytime.
I think the performers did it more than justice though. Jamie Barton (the reason I went), all twenty lines of her, and the choirs were sublime. She has a most gorgeous voice. The orchestra, especially the brass, played its heart out and conductor Peter Oundjian wasn’t afraid of the kind of extreme dynamics that one would never hear on a recording. He was also extremely energetic, at times looking like he’d fallen into the clutches of Signor Galvani. I thought it was an odd decision to take an interval after the first movement. I’ve never seen that done with a symphony before, though Heaven knows I needed a drink by then.
Photo credit: Jag Photography