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The orchestra had a chance to display its full prowess in the final work, an invigorating and uplifting reading of Mahler's Symphony No 1. This is a challenging work for any orchestra, and particularly for a student orchestra, the MIT SO demonstrated power and conviction. Of course there were some rough edges, sagging phrases, and intonation problems, but these were soon forgotten when swept up into an interpretation of passion and character. Anzolini's admirable textural clarity throughout elicited fresh aspects, and engineered a characterful large-scale process that attained its triumphant conclusion with panache.

In the first movement motivic elements came alive within the cavernous expansive of St John's, the transfiguration from grinding dissonance to resplendent brightness in the recapitulation. With the rustic swagger of the second movement Ländler, the Trio's lithe lyricism was all the more touching. The slow movement was a tour de force, its multi-voiced narrative, shifting from solemn procession to klezmer and village band, with genial fluency and evoking the Mahlerian allusion to the goblin's cortege ...

Echoes of Richard Strauss and pre-echoes of Sibelius perhaps coloured the finale's 'Schrekensfanfar' and suspense laden momentum. Mahler's symbiosis of the sublime with the trivial, here attained perplexing poise, the splendour of the emotive brass chorale, and the gradual winding bass line articulating a real sense of victory and triumph. It may have been a memorable experience for these young musicians, most of whom are science graduates; it certainly was for the audience.

The MIT SO are fortunate to have Dante Anzolini as their conductor; his dynamism draws out the best in his forces. The orchestra's participation in an enterprising exchange organised by 'The Cambridge-MIT Institute' is to be applauded; hopefully a return visit by a Cambridge ensemble will enrich audiences in the USA in the not too distant future.

The MIT Symphony Orchestra's UK tour ends on 3 June 2002, 7.30pm, with a concert at The Forum in Bath.

Copyright © 1 June 2002 Malcolm Miller, London, UK




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