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Annette Dasch [Photo © Manfred Baumann]
14 Sep 2016

Mahler’s Second, Concertgebouw

Daniele Gatti opened the first series of Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s season with a slightly uneven performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. With four planned, this staple repertoire for the RCO meant to introduce Gatti to the RCO subscribers.

Mahler’s Second, Concertgebouw

A review by David Pinedo

Above: Annette Dasch [Photo © Manfred Baumann]


After a tepid beginning, the concert was still very much worthwhile for the deeply moving vocals of the superlative Groot Omroep Choir in a stunning finale, where Gatti’s opera skills made for an unforgettable, sublime experience. Annette Dasch dazzled in her soprano role, while Ms. Cargill equally impressed.

Mahler’s Second Symphony premiered in Berlin in 1895. In October 1904, the Austrian conducted his work twice at the Concertgebouw. So whenever the RCO performs this piece a mythological dimension layers the experience. Tonight especially so, as Daniele Gatti performed it for the first time here. Expectations were ambivalent. Though he has great synergy and communicates intensely conducting, his performances have the tendency to be hit or miss. I have heard him perform a dreadful Schumann symphony on the same evening with a mind blowing Berg’s Violin Concerto. His Mahler’s Third and Sixth left a lot to be desired, but his already legendary performances of Mahler’s Fifth and Ninth earned him the job.

Karen_Cargill.pngKaren Cargill [Photo by K K Dundas]

Tonight with Mahler’s epic work, he grew in his role throughout the performance. With each following movement more sturdy, the music excelled in quality. Gatti’s fortissimo explode delightfully from the percussion and brass. His pianissimo passages simmer tensely. However, in between those extremes Gatti’s Mahler felt flat, even a bit superficial. Mr. Gatti’s conducting style is too polished, too refined.

With Simon Rattle and the Berliners last year, the rawness of Mahler’s Second made your skin crawl: those strings burned fiercely giving the music a serrated edge. Gatti’s finesse is impressive to see, but the music lacks depth in its resonance. Though I have to admit, Dominic Seldis, headbanging and riffing with his bass section, offered a pulsating momentum with throbbing intensity.

The Allegro Maestoso opening in particular suffered from a lack of intensity. With each reintroduction of the opening, Gatti’s fortissimo surges provoked plenty of goosebumps, but brilliance lacked in the subtly shrill moments. As result of the missing ferocity, the Andante moderato and its delicate “Ländler” dance did not have the strikingly upbeat contrast and pastoral whimsicality. Mr. Gatti’s elegant though overly elaborate conducting style again polished away the Scherzo’s incisiveness.

The transition into the fourth movement missed its disarming effect. When he conducted this work during his reign of the RCO, Mariss Jansons elevated the Urlicht (Primeval Light) movement into a heightened state of serenity; though it seems highly unfair to compare Gatti already to Jansons. Ms Cargill’s thick, voluptuous vibrato sang the lied from “Des Knaben Wunderhorn” that always resonates powerfully in the Concertgebouw. Tonight, almost with religious mysticism.

Concertmaster Vesko Eschkenazy made his violin sing exquisitely moving during his solo passages, while Vincent Cortvrint’s piccolo solo richly illuminated. The offstage musicians also added an engaging stereophonic effect to experience as they relocated off stage and were heard from different locations.

Annette Dasch stole the show in the finale as she and Cargill offered intense contrasts to each other. Dasch’s powerful voice has no problem mastering the tricky vocal acoustics of the hall, and contributed to the overall sublime finale. Right before the calm of the glorious ending, a cellphone managed to disrupt ever so briefly. The timing was impeccable, but thankfully it only rang one time.

Together with the awesome Groot Omroepkoor, Dasch and Cargill enriched the collective spirit of the finale as they sang the words from Mahler’s adaptation of the poem Die Auferstehung. It left me with wet eyes and less skeptical toward the future with the still developing Gatti and the RCO.

David Pinedo

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