Saturday, September 18, 2021

Grand Palace Hall, Ion Câmpineanu 28, Bucharest, Romania

On Wednesday night it was Mahler 3 at home; on this Saturday evening Paavo Järvi had been on his travels to Bucharest for the same work, his Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich musicians alongside him, the Mahler parts in their luggage.

The opening found the horns in magnificent and refulgent form, and the trombones growled as if in a jungle. This was no warming up, the performance was already potent and panoramic, the players continuing where they left-off three days ago, sure of Järvi’s elegant direction (neither static nor laboured), leaving the listener in no doubt that something momentous was happening (splendidly fruity trombone solos en route, eloquent cor anglais and violin, too, unfazed trumpet contributions, vivid woodwinds) – and that it would be delivered – so when Summer did march in it did so with swagger and inevitability, military-band style (strings not outdone though), a tribute to Järvi’s unindulgent tempos and his seeing this ambitious first movement whole (all over in thirty-three minutes, on the move but never rushed), embracing all incidents.

The second movement (flowers) alternated grace, rapture (beautiful string-playing) and unanimous agility, all-belonging, while the third (animals) was earthy and rumbustious as well as framing a view from a mountaintop through an expressive posthorn solo sounded from afar, just within earshot, the Grand Palace Hall magically stilled … then it was back down to earth.

In movement four (man) Wiebke Lehmkuhl peered deeply and darkly into Nietzsche’s words (Zarathustra), and was given time to do so, as was the cor anglais player to bend notes, wailing; then – attacca – the ladies of the chorus and the children bimm-bammed lustily in the angelic successor. Finally, heavenly love stole in almost imperceptibly, the Symphony’s slow conclusion that here was broad and rapt, yearning and passionate, and which rose indivisibility to a golden-brassy envoi, timpanists in duplicate marking time to a glorious arrival: a long-held and intense ultimate chord.

Mahler 3 can too easily be ‘of many moments’; here it was all of a piece for the ninety-five minutes that passed quickly without any feeling of aspects being glossed over. TV Romania’s without-speech and -opinion presentation let the music speak for itself. Ideal.

PAAVO JÄRVI conductor
IOSIF ION PRUNNER conductor of the choir
RĂZVAN RĂDOS conductor of the choir

Inauguration of the newly renovated Tonhalle Zürich – Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich – Paavo Järvi conducts Mahler’s Third Symphony, with Wiebke Lehmkuhl [SRF 1 live webcast]