Alice Coote, Royal Festival Hall, London
Monday 03 October 2011
Lorin Maazel may well have set some kind of record here for two of the most protracted and incoherent performances in Mahler history.
Even before solo violas had finished tracing out the searching opening line of the 10th Symphony Adagio it was clear Maazel was inhabiting some parallel time zone from our own. That's not necessarily such a bad thing in a work where timelessness is of the essence. But when all sense of direction is put on hold in a halting bar-by-bar exposition of the piece, it isn't just the musicians who begin to feel vulnerable and lost. If ever there were a need for musical sat-nav, this was it.
Strange how a musician of Maazel's enormous experience could not feel, never mind hear, how the burgeoning melody at the heart of the 10th Adagio was losing all sense of phrasal shape through his enervating slowness. The Philharmonia strings, hanging bravely on to his sticky, indecisive, beat, were hard-pushed to support and give purpose to all those exposed solo lines. Tension came and went, transitions became illogical, and the great trumpet-bisected climax made no sense at all. Maazel must have added almost ten minutes to the average running time.
And it got worse. Mahler's valedictory song-symphony Das Lied von der Erde began from the same stance of impossible slowness and faded from hearing seemingly hours later. I have no idea if the unfortunate tenor, Stefan Vinke, initiated or contested the Klemperer-like speed for the opening song but his stiffly four-square delivery (no rapture, no word sense, no variation in colour and dynamics) was merely loud or louder with intonation horribly challenged by the high tessitura and a hectoring, artery-popping strenuousness substituting for the song's innate intoxication. It was already clear that the finer shadings and porcelain lightness of his remaining songs would not be an option.
Thank heavens for Alice Coote. She and Maazel almost parted company at several points during the performance – not least the evocation of galloping stallions at the heart of the fourth song "Of Beauty". But she alone heard the sounds of silence. She alone carried the rapture of the piece and connected words to feeling. Her singing of the line "I seek rest for my lonely heart" in "Der Abschied" said it all, the Philharmonia's solo clarinet eloquently picking up on the heartbreak. That alone was almost worth the wait.
There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turningTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Cyclist in Russia narrowly misses being hit by car and lorry
- 2 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 3 What are your fingerprint words?
- 4 Gary Lineker involved in Twitter row after presenter rubbishes claims he will be warned by BBC over foul-mouthed tweets
- 5 Pink Floyd new album: Band unveil cover art for first record in 20 years
Downton Abbey fans unimpressed by Kindle sponsorship adverts
Thomas Heatherwick creates gin palace with a fantastical Willy Wonka vibe
Idris Elba 'absolutely' wants to play James Bond
Cilla, episode 2, ITV, review: Sheridan Smith continues to shine
Kendrick Lamar: New song 'i' released on Soundcloud sampling Isley Brothers - listen here
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
Labour Party conference: Ed Balls to set out plan to freeze child benefit to balance books