In a week of consecutive concerts by the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Gustav Mahler's Fourth and Fifth symphonies unfolded, revealing a profound musical journey fraught with life and death experiences.
The Fourth Symphony: A Vision of Heaven and Earthly Challenges
Gianandrea Noseda led the Philharmonic in a performance of the Fourth Symphony, embracing the more conventional aspects of its Romanticism. The concertmaster, Frank Huang, subtly navigated the scordatura violin's unique sound in the second movement. The emotional catharsis in the second half, marked by Mahlerian climaxes, showcased Golda Schultz's sparkling soprano, offering absolute optimism in the final movement.
The Fifth Symphony: A Cosmic Exploration
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, directing the Met players, explored the expansive Fifth Symphony, a colossal work reflecting mortality and the vulnerability of love. The Funeral March opened with theatricality, followed by the virtuosic whirling dance of the Scherzo, anchored by horn player Brad Gemeinhardt. The poignant Adagietto, a love letter to Mahler's future wife, was sustained with glimmering tones, while the fifth movement overflowed with dash, bustle, and joy.
A Mahlerian Odyssey Beyond Symphonies
The concerts also featured Mozart pieces, with Francesco Piemontesi's fast and punchy performance of Piano Concerto No. 25. Golda Schultz joined Piemontesi for Mozart's concert aria "Ch’io mi scordi di te?," showcasing dramatic focus. The Met Orchestra's program included a spirited reading of a fugue from Bach's "Musical Offering," and soprano Lise Davidsen's rendition of Wagner’s "Wesendonck Lieder" drew applause with her plush, rosy dramatic sound.
Encores and Musical Worlds
As a testament to Mahler's belief that symphonies represent entire worlds, both orchestras lavished careful attention on these craggy emotional landscapes. However, Lise Davidsen's encore, "Dich, teure Halle" from Wagner’s "Tannhäuser," transcended to a world of its own, showcasing the splendor of her voice.
In this musical odyssey, Mahler's symphonies served as portals, allowing listeners to plunge into the depths of the human experience, from heavenly visions to the cosmic embrace of life's challenges and joys.