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The pièce de résistance was the enlarged orchestra's traversal of Mahler's Symphony No 1 in D (Titan). Like his mentor Leonard Bernstein, Tilson Thomas has emerged as one of the great Mahler conductors of our time. He magically evoked the Alpine mystery of the score's opening bars. The rich, transparent strings (with Jordan as concertmaster and Votapek as principal cello) produced monumental vistas of sonority. The ländler of the second movement was truly rollicking in Tilson Thomas's hands. Michael Valerio (currently a Hollywood studio musician much favored by composer-conductor John Williams) played a stunning double bass solo in the eerie funeral march on Frère Jacques. The concluding movement was magnificent as Tilson Thomas eloquently traced Mahler's journey from darkness to light. At the conclusion eight horns (led by Michelle Perry of the Empire Brass) rang out triumphantly. An unforgettable, superbly articulated performance.

In response to a prolonged standing, cheering ovation Tilson Thomas offered an Americana encore -- Aaron Copland's 'Hoedown' from Rodeo in a performance that combined classical precision with country western swagger.

On 1 April 2005 Tilson Thomas led the ensemble in an illuminating Tchaikovsky program. Violinist Leila Josefowicz played the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in a manner that dusted off the cobwebs of repeated hearings and made the music emerge freshly minted. She thinned her tone down to the most slender of threads, lingered over lush romantic pages, and played with wild Magyar abandon -- all within a single movement. Her poetic reading of the Canzonetta was followed by a gutsy, daredevil version of the finale -- played at lightning speed.

Leila Josefowiscz
Leila Josefowiscz

Tchaikovsky's rarely played Symphony No 1 (Winter Dreams) has long been a Tilson Thomas specialty. (The conductor made a classic 1968 recording of the score with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.) He brought balletic fluidity and excitement to the opening Allegro tranquillo. His spacious tempo and the rich, focused tone of the violins found the deep Russian melancholy that permeates the Adagio cantabile. The bright sound of Dwight Perry's oboe and Alice Dade's flute underscored the music's aristocratic nobility. Tilson Thomas's exhilarating reading of the finale highlighted the orchestra's dynamic brass and incandescent strings. With the coda taken at a fierce clip, the brilliant concluding string flourishes were like musical sunshine greeting the joy of spring.

Copyright © 16 June 2005 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA

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