Arts: Classical: Aural flights of fantasy
Concertegbouw/Chailly Bridgewater Hall Manchester
Saturday 04 September 1999
The amplitude of the acoustic, its willingness to reveal detail without sacrificing an overall tonal blend, evidently pleased Chailly. I sat in on a rehearsal as soprano Ruth Ziesak toyed with the evocative poetry of Berg's Seven Early Songs, soaring high for Night (the first piece in the cycle) as a darkening veil of orchestration invited the listener to Drink of Solitude. Chailly would cue the opening bars of a song, attend to balance and tempo, then press on to the next.
I followed him back to his dressing room for a comment on the Hall when his mobile phone suddenly rang and he responded with a spontaneous "Una bella acustica". Question answered - though he later commented on how the Hall "embraces the music without unduly favouring individual sections of the orchestra". A score of Mahler Four - the concert's main item - lay open on his desk, and I asked him to locate the Symphony's pivotal climax. "Figure 12!" he exclaimed. "That wonderful moment in the slow movement when the Gates of Heaven fly open and the timpani thrash out the rhythmic pattern that opened the movement. But there is another wonderful moment, one that is even more sublime. It comes towards the end of the finale, at the point where the soprano sings of Saint Cecilia's court musicians and their angelic voices."
In the event, Chailly drew that most subtle portamento from the strings while the pure-voiced Ziezak conjured feelings of innocence and awe. Mahler's Fourth has been a Concertgebouw speciality ever since the composer himself shared a programme with the legendary Dutch maestro Willem Mengelberg and they both conducted the Symphony at the same concert - before and after the interval! Viewed overall, Chailly's performance was dark and emphatic, with rustic sounds from the woodwinds.
Before the interval, Mahler had already emerged as a palpable influence on Berg's songs, especially the fourth, A Crown of Dreams, while Strauss inhabited The Nightingale. In Lover's Ode, Berg's use of bassoon, trumpet and a hissing snare drum suggests decay among the fragrant roses. The concert had opened with Webern's pre-serial tone poem Im Sommerwind, which blossomed slowly among clarinet, solo violin and brush of cymbals.
This is truly Chailly's home territory: aural adventure with a surprise on virtually every page. You could tell he loved the piece and London audiences can witness it for themselves at the Royal Festival Hall on 22 September. The only difference is that Ziesak will be replaced by Barbara Bonney.
RFH booking no: 0171-960 4242
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
- 2 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 3 US? China? India? The 10 biggest economies in 2030 will be...
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling