Thursday, March 10, 2022
Palacio Euskalduna, Abandoibarra Etorbidea, Bilbao
In the first of two performances, following what I assume was a standing minute’s silence for the plight of Ukraine and its suffering population, and ‘Kaddisch’ from Ravel’s Deux mélodies hébraïques with its heady incantations sung very expressively by mezzo Isabelle Druet, we were plunged straight into Mahler’s “rise again” Second Symphony, edgy and visceral, Leonard Slatkin proposing a properly measured tempo – a rite of funereal passage, the weight of the World on the shoulders of the music – flexible, though, with time to reflect or to reach nodal points by stealth, very well played by an orchestra in its centenary season.
The remaining four movements were seen as indivisible by Slatkin, elegant but not staid in the second; swirling and detail-bejewelled in the third (excellent sound and picture) with surges of energy (first-rate brass and percussion in the final outburst); and into ‘Urlicht’, once again with Druet, who certainly found the music’s soul; and the concluding movement had its wasteland aspects, underground-to-surface crescendos, chorales, beacons of light, marches, catastrophe, and distant parades all-belonging, tempos differentiated but not disruptive to the whole, some electric playing … cue chorus (all its members masked, so too those orchestral personnel who could be), a dynamic crew, from plaintive quietude to a lung-busting apotheosis, with soprano Miren Urbieta radiant.
Overall this was a compelling performance through all the Symphony’s stages, at once full-value yet threaded, and ultimately uplifting, demons done away with … if not for real, sadly.