Over the course of any endeavor there are highs and lows, peaks which reveal unimaginable vistas and dark crevices full of creatures which are less than benevolent. With the San Diego Symphony the crevices are few and far between and usually just filled with an obligatory avant garde piece.
The San Diego Symphony’s concert on Sunday, March 11, was a peak and a vista with some creatures which expressed themselves via the pathetic cough. More on that later.
In many ways this concert of Bach and Mahler could be the high point of the masterworks season when looking at it from a perspective of the repertoire. Along with Respighi’s The Pines of Rome this Mahler Symphony No. 1 orchestra was one of the largest of the season.
The size of the orchestra is not usually a noteworthy occurrence. However, it is difficult to deny the surge of enthusiasm which bubbles up in my chest when I see eight French horns, and a tuba on the stage. The more relevant quality of the concert was the juxtaposition of Bach and Mahler.
Preceding the Mahler’s Titan symphony was a delicious violin concerto by Bach which was performed by a tight cohort of the San Diego Symphony strings with concertmaster Jeff Thayer on solo. The texture of Bach’s music is exquisite and it paired well with the Mahler avalanche which was to follow.
The strings, except the cellos and bass, performed the piece standing up. The change of energy created by having the players stand was refreshing but I couldn’t help thinking of Woody Allen trying to play the cello in a marching band in Take the Money and Run.
Conductor Edo de Waart is establishing a strong relationship with the orchestra here in San Diego and that was evident from the get go of the Mahler. As the music crept into existence it was interrupted by the mating call of the infirm.
I will not dwell on this but the amount of coughing in the audience was disturbing. Symphony Hall was transformed into Mother Mahler’s Home for the Sick and Dying. Next time you are at a concert and feel a need to cough, discipline yourself and don’t do it. At the very least, wait for a forte.
Maestro de Waart and the orchestra blazed like a vast comet across the vault of Mahler’s heaven. Gustav Mahler, when writing a symphony, tried to compose nothing less than the entire universe. The orchestra played it into existence in a concert which was satisfying to the ear, mind, and heart.
Maestro de Waart will be returning for the conclusion of the masterworks season on May 25, 26, and 27 with a Brahms symphony and a scene stealing concerto for two pianos by Francis Poulenc.