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Tremendous Energy

Mozart and Mahler in Nottingham,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


Mahler's 6th Symphony is a big Grimm's fairytale of a piece, except that this one doesn't end happily ever after. This is the Austro-German romantic imagination at its darkest. Shadowy forests, strange nocturnal creatures, E T A Hoffmann's sinister mechanical contraptions -- none of these or a host of comparable images would be out of place. It's all carried along on the tidal surge of Mahler's tremendous energy, which was the dominant impression left by the BBC Philharmonic's performance under Gianandrea Noseda (Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, UK, 9 May 2008). The first movement's march rhythms had a real spring in their step, and the 'Alma' theme surged passionately. The pace was artfully varied but it never faltered.

Whatever the arguments for or against reverting to Mahler's original movement order and playing the Scherzo before the Andante, Noseda's obvious conviction that it belonged with the first movement was underlined by moving from one to the other without a break. It maintained the momentum, in the midst of which the trio section's innocence sounded particularly fragile. The huge, complex structure of the finale was compellingly held together, and the final bars were truly desolate. In terms of both playing and interpretation it was an utterly gripping performance.

Before the interval, Nicola Benedetti joined the orchestra for Mozart's Violin Concerto No 3. Noseda conducted what was a fairly big band for Mozart by today's standards. There was expressive warmth as well as brightness and vigour in the playing, qualities matched in Benedetti's account of the solo part. The adagio was kept nicely flowing, and the finale's two dance episodes were elegantly shaped. A slight disagreement over tempo in the finale, with Benedetti perceptibly moving things along with her first entry, was the only smudge on an otherwise winning account of the work.

Copyright © 13 May 2008 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK


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