Thursday, February 9, 2023

City Halls, Glasgow

During BBC Proms 2014 Donald Runnicles and the BBC Scottish gave a memorable Mahler Nine, coupled with Vaughan Williams’s Tallis Fantasia. In Glasgow the Mahler stood alone, it too will stay in one’s consciousness.

The R3 trailer (which I was fortunate enough to hear only twice) claimed Mahler Nine lasts ninety minutes. Well, it certainly can (LPO/Eschenbach), and has been taken further, reaching 100 (Philharmonia/Maazel, also RFH), or can play for just below eighty (Boulez, Kubelík or Masur, say), while Bruno Walter, the work’s first maestro, 1912/Vienna (Mahler deceased), didn’t hang around: as I recall, a surviving concert account from 1938 lasts seventy; and Iván Fischer’s Budapest taping is seventy-five. We also got the hour-and-a-half spiel from the (over-promoting) broadcast announcer. Well, Runnicles took seventy-five: 25/15/12/23. (Partial refund for the audience?)

He also led a performance that connected musical threads, logically seamless, and without denuding emotions, played with devotion by the Orchestra for its Emeritus guest, Runnicles accommodating as-one the first movement’s episodes, volatility, seismic climaxes and confiding intimacies, highlighting dissonances and darkness. The dances of the second movement breezed along and were vividly contrasted, alive and well, if conflicting, and the succeeding ‘Rondo-Burleske’ was contrapuntally lucid, with detail nakedly revealed, ironic in utterance, ethereally expressive at the midpoint, and driven wildly to the abyss in conclusion. The slow Finale was noble and faraway, transcendental at the climax, and ultimately fading from earshot to nothingness … long silence…

Impressive throughout, focussed, with a palpable rapport between SSO and Runnicles. Much enlightenment.

Grand Teton Music Festival Announces 2023 Season, June 30-August 19.