Photo, Chris Christodoulou

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Royal Albert Hall, London

Following his splendid Mahler Seven at this year’s Proms,, Sakari Oramo now dealt us an equally impressive Mahler Three, which can stand alongside two recent, also notable, accounts of this vast six-movement Symphony,, and

The eight unison horns that open the (almost self-contained) first movement could not have been bettered, an introduction to summer marching in as Nature stirs, the BBCSO in well-drilled and -detailed form, Oramo leaving no doubt that his preparation and the subsequent rehearsals had been meticulous yet leaving some things to happen as if spontaneous and of natural cause. The dynamic range was wide, especially ear-catching at the lowest end of the scale, yet there was also a militaristic swagger that was vivid, leading inevitably to Panathenaic uproar, the music here let loose, the Albert Hall ideal for the reclaiming distant side drums and the returning horns – suggesting Groundhog Day (I’ve not thought of that before) – trombonist Helen Vollom continuing to orate and lyricise significantly as the coda got nearer and broke through unstoppably. Timings are really only bald facts; that said, at thirty-three minutes this was one of the quicker views of the opener, and very persuasive.

Five further movements (Mahler dropped the descriptive titles for all of them, nevertheless they are a clue) – so flowers and meadows was eloquent and nimble, old-world dance and charm; then frolicsome if vigorous animals, with the view of the World from the roof of it magically faraway (the venue once again coming into its own) in a vista-creating posthorn solo from Niall Keatley; meanwhile at ground level, continuing frivolity, deep contemplation, and final catastrophe (?) before a dizzying conclusion.

The remaining three movements run together – Nietzschean philosophy sermonised with gravitas by Jenny Carlstedt, with bird-call woodwind glissandos in place; then women and boys “bimm”ed and “bamm”ed with enthusiasm supported by bells and glockenspiel, Carlstedt hinting at how Mahler’s next Symphony will complete, in Heaven; therefore it is apt that the slow Finale of the current work concerns itself with love, not least of the spiritual kind, extraordinarily special in Berlin with Mehta, and similarly spacious and rapt in London, the BBCSO strings inward yet radiating a depth of communication that led logically to the sonorous striding ending.

Following ninety-three minutes, audience approbation was immediate, whereas the long-held silence in Berlin spoke volumes; at the Proms the spectators were embracing the music and the musicians with Earthly directness.

Jenny Carlstedt (mezzo-soprano)
Trinity Boys Choir
BBC Symphony Chorus (women’s voices)–SqKsyP4 [Mehta/Berlin; final movement; December 18, 2021]