1. I'm starting this post within minutes of returning home from the concert.
2. The TSO has a new concertmaster.
3. Mahler is epic!
Walking into the hall right away something was different. I'll call it mood lighting which tends to only show up at Pops shows. However, lighting was used very effectively throughout the evening. Case in points: The symphony opens with a trumpet fanfare solo, and a spot was placed on Principal trumpet Andrew McCandless. During the slow movement featuring just strings and the harp, the lights on the brass, winds, and percussion were dimmed.
If the lighting wasn't enough to catch your attention, as the orchestra members began to take their seats, where they were sitting would have. The layout had the basses (all 8 of them...told you Mahler was epic!) on the left side of the stage, behind the first violins and cellos which had been moved from their usual stage right position to beside the first violins. The violas were pretty much the same, maybe shifted over slightly, and in the usual cello spot were the second violins. There was also the fact that the score sitting on the conductors stand was about 2 inches thick!
|Jonathan Crow (canada.com)|
As for the actual piece. I said after the season opening Mahler Symphony #2 "The Resurrection" that youtube didn't do Mahler justice. A sentiment which I will strongly echo again! It's just not possible to have the same experience listening to any recording as you get from being in a concert hall filled with people, and an orchestra consisting of 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, 7 French horns, 3 oboes, 3 bassoons, 3 clarinets, the previously mentioned 8 basses, and a percussion section complete with gong, timpani, bass drum, and crash cymbols (just to name a few), and the usual strings.
The first of the five movements is a funeral march, but such a pretty one. The overriding theme, if one must find one, is a journey from darkness to light. Dynamics play a huge part in what I've heard of Mahler. Each movement, save for the fourth slower and string based Adagietto which was a love letter to Mahler's wife Alma, had pianissimo and fortissimo alternations and it made complete sense for the winds to put in ear plugs when the horns let loose, sometimes even raising their bells. Additionally, this was sometimes done by the clarinets, and oboes as well. Given the weight and length of the work I don't even know where to begin at describing sections I loved. I don't remember where they were (for a "real" review of a performance earlier this week, see this). There was a small violin solo part Mr. Crow played, looking forward to seeing him featured more next season, and string pizzicato sections that were fun to watch and added variety. In the Allegro Finale, the switch into a major tonality was thrilling. It really felt like the journey was complete. As described by Herbert von Karajan "...you forget that time has passed...The fantastic finale almost forces you to hold your breath." Somewhere, perhaps in the second movement, there was this great entrance by the brass that actually did have me holding my breath, as well as the Finale.
I have never seen a Toronto audience on their feet so quickly. I'd say it was one step before "leaping to their feet", but it was the fastest and most complete standing ovation I have yet seen. It lasted for 3 sets of bows and acknowledgement of the brass, horn, percussion, and wind sections.
The season is technically not complete, but this is the final concert conducted by Peter Oundjian, the final full classical work, the final performance by the new concertmaster (the program lists current associates sitting first chair for the next few weeks), and I'll venture a guess, the final to feature a full conglomerate of principal players. So what a fitting bookend to a season that started and ended with epic Mahler!