The Washington Post

Marin Al­sop and the BSO played Mahler’s Ninth as if ex­press­ing his pathos and ur­gency — and theirs.

- BY CHARLES T. DOWNEY style@wash­ Arts · Classical Music · Austria · Baltimore · Iceland · Ludwig van Beethoven · Strathmore · Belgium · Boston Symphony Orchestra · Gustav Mahler · Leonard Bernstein

Marin Al­sop led an ex­pan­sive, com­pli­cated ren­di­tion of Mahler’s Ninth Sym­phony un­der dif­fi­cult con­di­tions Satur­day night in the Mu­sic Cen­ter at Strath­more. The last time she con­ducted the work, in 2009, she made the mis­take of pair­ing it with an in­fe­rior work by Leonard Bern­stein. This time around it stood alone, suf­fused with re­gret and nostal­gia.

Anx­i­ety about the fu­ture has hov­ered over the Bal­ti­more Sym­phony Orches­tra all sea­son. Man­age­ment has in­sisted the orches­tra be­come a part-time en­sem­ble by cut­ting back the sea­son from 52 weeks to 40 weeks. At the end of May, af­ter an ex­tended con­tract dis­pute, man­age­ment abruptly can­celed the orches­tra’s sum­mer sea­son, sus­pend­ing mu­si­cians’ pay as of June 16.

Mahler’s Ninth Sym­phony is a leave-tak­ing, com­posed af­ter the death of the com­poser’s young daugh­ter. Much of the first move­ment ob­sesses over the three­note mo­tif “Le­be­wohl” (Farewell), taken from Beethoven’s pi­ano sonata “Les Adieux.” Af­ter an ethe­real open­ing in cello and harp, Al­sop wrung as much pathos and ur­gency as she could from this mu­sic — and those emo­tions seemed to res­onate with the orches­tra’s si­t­u­a­tion.

The rough-hewn se­cond move­ment plod­ded along some­what rudely, the se­cond vi­o­lins hack­ing away un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously at the first state­ment of the Ländler. The third move­ment darted and bit even more bit­terly, the vi­ciously main­tained coun­ter­point in­ter­rupted by a crys­talline, mourn­ful trum­pet solo around the mid­point.

The en­tire vi­o­lin sec­tion, one of the BSO’s great­est as­sets, sang their hearts out in the open­ing of the con­clud­ing Ada­gio, marked “grosser Ton” (with big tone) in the score. The plush string sec­tion, in­clud­ing heart-melt­ing so­los from con­cert­mas­ter Jonathan Car­ney, sus­tained the time-stop­ping tempo set by Al­sop, com­ple­mented by gor­geous horn so­los. One early flute en­trance aside, quickly righted, it was a mo­ment to glory in the sound of the BSO, just be­fore its likely dis­man­tle­ment at the hands of its own man­age­ment.

At the start of the con­cert, the en­tire orches­tra took the stage to­gether, in a ges­ture of sol­i­dar­ity. The de­voted Strath­more au­di­ence re­sponded with stand­ing ova­tions both at the be­gin­ning and end of the con­cert. The af­fec­tion in the hall was pal­pa­ble, but it may not be enough to save this es­teemed en­sem­ble from di­min­ish­ment.

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 ?? MARGOT SCHULMAN ?? Marin Al­sop brought Mahler’s Ninth Sym­phony to the Mu­sic Cen­ter at Strath­more on Satur­day night.
MARGOT SCHULMAN Marin Al­sop brought Mahler’s Ninth Sym­phony to the Mu­sic Cen­ter at Strath­more on Satur­day night.

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