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P Stumpf
# Posted: 9 May 2009 22:24

Overall, a very fine performance. A few passages in the first movement were conducted and played pedestrianly, but the performance, in the batonless hands of Pierre Boulez, grew in strength and precision as it went on. Given the scarceness of contraltos these days, one could not ask for a better interpreter of the "Urlicht" movement than Michelle DeYoung; her dark-hued tone and expressive face and gestures made the sequence special (and she seemed to enjoy sitting with the chorus and looking at what the orchestra players were doing - usually she has her back to them, I imagine). Dorothea Roschmann made some pleasing contributions, but did not soar noticeably above the chorus (as DeYoung did) in the finale. All sections of the orchestra played better than the night before, but the percussion section was particularly strong; the drumroll in the last movement was actually terror-inducing.

William Zucker
# Posted: 10 May 2009 16:21

Paul, I must say; this did perhaps go better than the night before, but still I felt a sense of detachment in the undertaking. The junctures of the piece, where you can best feel the shaping, somehow did not ring true, if you understand what I'm trying to say. Despite Mahler's indication, I was happy about the slight pause between the third movement and the Uhrlicht. There is a definite musical break at that point. I have had a wonderful past experience with Michelle De Young in a performance of Das Lied (with St. L under Robertson), and her facial expressions in this performance enormously enhanced this experience. I'm sure the same was true here. There are varying versions of this work, deviant readings, and Mr. Boulez used a conflation. I'm not sure that I was happy about that. There is not enough room in this format to explain, but Gil Kaplan once showed me his score, and the revised versions are defintely superior. I refer to a passage near the end of the first movement, and in the last movement, to the moment where the march itself actually begins.

I must unfortunately say that I have heard more committed performances of this work. Having now heard both conductors, I am now concerned as to how some of the later symphonies in this undertaking will turn out.

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