Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Mariachi Opera El Pasado Nunca se Termina Comes to San Diego

On April 25, 2015, San Diego Opera presented it’s second Mariachi opera: El Pasado Nunca se Termina (The Past is Never Finished) by Jose “Pepe” Martinez, Leonard Foglia and Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán.

Antonio Pappano: Royal Opera House Orchestral Concerts

Ambition achieved! Antonio Pappano brought the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House out of the pit and onto the stage, the centre of attention in their own right.

Bedřich Smetana: Dalibor, Barbican Hall

Jiří Bělohlávek’s annual Czech opera series at the Barbican, London, with the BBC SO continued with Bedřich Smetana’s Dalibor.

Orlando Explores Art Without Boundaries

R.B. Schlather’s production of Handel’s Orlando asks the enigmatic question: Where do the boundaries of performance art begin, and where do they end?

The Virtues of Things

A good number of recent shorter operas, particularly those performed in this country, made a stronger impression with their libretti than their scores.

Król Roger, Royal Opera

It has taken almost 89 years for Karol Szymanowski’s Król Roger to reach the stage of Covent Garden.

San Diego Opera Celebrates 50 Years of Great Singing

San Diego Opera, the company that General Manager Ian Campbell had scheduled for demolition, proved that it is alive and singing as beautifully as ever. Its 2015 season was cut back slightly and management has become a bit leaner, but the company celebrated its fiftieth season in fine style with a concert that included many of the greatest arias ever written.

Hercules vs Vampires: Film Becomes Opera!

In the early sixties, Italian film director Mario Bava was making pictures with male body builders whose well oiled physiques appeared spectacular on the screen.

Green: Mélodies françaises sur des poèmes de Verlaine

Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France

J. C. Bach: Adriano in Siria

At this start of the year, Classical Opera embarked upon an ambitious project. MOZART 250 will see the company devote part of its programme each season during the next 27 years to exploring the music by Mozart and his contemporaries which was being written and performed exactly 250 years previously.

Bethan Langford, Wigmore Hall

The Concordia Foundation was founded in the early 1990s by international singer and broadcaster Gillian Humphreys, out of her ‘real concern for building bridges of friendship and excellence through music and the arts’.

Tansy Davies: Between Worlds (world premiere)

An opera dealing with — or at least claiming to deal with — the events of 11 September 2001? I suppose it had to come, but that does not necessarily make it any more necessary.

Arizona Opera Ends Season in Fine Style with Fille du Régiment

On April 10, 2015, Arizona Opera ended its season with La Fille du Régiment at Phoenix Symphony Hall. A passionate Marie, Susannah Biller was a veritable energizer bunny onstage. Her voice is bright and flexible with a good bloom on top and a tiny bit of steel in it. Having created an exciting character, she sang with agility as well as passion.

Il turco in Italia, Royal Opera

This second revival of Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser’s 2005 production of Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia seems to have every going for it: excellent principals comprising experienced old-hands and exciting new voices, infinite gags and japes, and the visual éclat of Agostino Cavalca’s colour-bursting costumes and Christian Fenouillat’s sunny sets which evoke the style, glamour and ease of La Dolce Vita.

The Siege of Calais
——
The Wild Man of the West Indies

English Touring Opera’s 2015 Spring Tour is audacious and thought-provoking. Alongside La Bohème the company have programmed a revival of their acclaimed 2013 production of Donizetti’s The Siege of Calais (L’assedio di Calais) and the composer’s equally rare The Wild Man of the West Indies (Il furioso all’isola di San Domingo).

The Met’s Lucia di Lammermoor

Mary Zimmerman’s still-fresh production is made fresher still by Shagimuratova’s glimmering voice, but the acting disappoints

Voices, voices in space, and spaces: Thoughts on 50 years of Meredith Monk

When WNYC’s John Schaefer introduced Meredith Monk’s beloved Panda Chant II, which concluded the four-and-a-half hour Meredith Monk & Friends celebration at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, he described it as “an expression of joy and musicality” before lamenting the fact that playing it on his radio show could never quite compete with a live performance.

St. John Passion by Soli Deo Gloria, Chicago

This year’s concert of the Chicago Bach Project, under the aegis of the Soli Deo Gloria Music Foundation, was a presentation of the St. John Passion (BWV 245) at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park.

Fedora in Genoa

It is not an everyday opera. It is an opera that illuminates a larger verismo history.

The Marriage of Figaro, LA Opera

On March 26, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). The Ian Judge production featured jewel-colored box sets by Tim Goodchild that threw the voices out into the hall. Only for the finale did the set open up on to a garden that filled the whole stage and at the very end featured actual fireworks.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 1
09 Sep 2009

Mahler: Symphony no. 1

Among the important recent cycles of Mahler’s symphonies is the one underway by Valery Gergiev with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 1

London Symphony Orchestra. Valery Gergiev, conductor.

LSO 063 [SACD]

$18.98  Click to buy

Still in process, the recordings of Symphonies nos. 2, 3, 6, and 7 have been issued to date, with the release of Symphony no. 8 immanent. (Gergiev included the Adagio of the unfinished Tenth Symphony with the recording of Symphony no. 2). In addition, the recently issued CD of the First Symphony stems from live performances given in January 2008 at the Barbican, London. From the outset the sound is vivid, and it matches the somewhat vibrant approach Valery Gergiev has taken for the first movement. Yet the rather quick tempos do not always match the character of the music As ambiguous as the marking “Wie ein Naturlaut” (“like a sound in nature”) may be, the suggestion is usually taken to allow the opening to take shape slowly. Instead of the kind of atmospheric introduction which other conductors achieve, the pacing of the short ideas that follow moves to the main theme of the movement very quickly. As clear as the performance is, the quick tempos do not allow the cantabile nature of the first theme emerge, as it should with its evocation of the second song from the cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, “Ging heut’ morgen übers Feld.” While it has some very effective moments, the absence of such connections to the innate vocality of the first movement makes the piece seem disconnected from the style associated with Mahler’s music.

With the second movement, though, Gergiev maintains his crisp tempos, but here it fits better into the style of the piece. The lyrical theme of the second section is, on the other hand, played with such a decided slowness that the sense of tempo sometimes escapes. Nevertheless, the playing is precise and clean, but sometimes more percussive sounding than occurs in other performances. In this movement, though, the dynamic contrasts are pronounced nicely and support the musical structure well. Within the interplay of dynamics and articulation, the orchestral colors represent the score well, with the brass prominent without overbalancing the strings.

Such sensitivity to the timbre is crucial to the third movement, which begins almost imperceptibly. The canon on the tune “Bruder Martin” is paced nicely, with the wood line supporting the contrapuntal texture nicely. With the second section, the portion which Mahler once characterized as suggesting Bohemian town musicians, the popular, or folk-like idiom is apparent without being exaggerated. Gergiev is also good to shade the tempos nicely, and with them the solo instruments. The solo trumpet is notable for the shading that occurs here, and the overall effect is a fine representation of the score. In the middle section, the one in which Mahler develops melodic ideas from “Die zwei blauen Eigen,” the final song of his cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, offers a fine contrast to the other ideas in the movement. Yet the sound levels of the final portion of the movement fade too soon.

Such a dramatic change in dynamic level does offer a setup for the opening of the Finale, which begins with a fine sense of drama. While tempos are not problematic for this movement, the sound levels are sometimes overbalanced. The extremes of dynamic level sometimes result in a fast-and-loud or slow-and-quiet dialectic. What needs to emerge in this movement are more sustained textures in which tone colors, dynamic levels, and articulations combine to create the effects Mahler scored. As with the other movements, the playing is satisfying throughout, but the nuances betray over- and understatement. The kind of sustained effects which Gergiev brought to his recent recording of Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony, for example, would work well here. The concluding in which the scalar theme that evokes for some Handel’s chorus “And he shall reign forever and ever,” as Stephen Johnson mentions in his liner notes, should emerge from the other ideas in the movement. Here, though, is seems disconnected from the larger structure. As much as the pacing of the concluding section is dramatic, the final two notes seem, perhaps, not sufficiently assertive.

Part of Gergiev’s cycle of Mahler’s symphonies with the London Symphony Orchestra, this recording has its merits, but it also raises questions about stylistic issues in performing this important early work by Mahler. The roles of tempo, thematic cohesion, and dynamic contrasts, and other elements are important to the effective execution of this work. As familiar as Mahler’s First Symphony may be to modern audiences, it remains a demanding score on the part of the interpreter. Again, as a live performance, this recording differs from some of the studio recordings, with exciting playing on the part of the London Symphony Orchestra.

James L. Zychowicz

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):