I’ve just recovered the ability to string words into coherent sentences again. What an incredible performance by the OAE and Philharmonia Chorus of Mahler 2 tonight. It was like no performance I’ve ever heard before.
The trumpet section was outstanding, producing a warm, round sound that integrated with the orchestral texture perfectly. The double-basses, 10 strong, were a revelation; the clarinets, playing in the most authentic klezmer style in the third movement, at times seemed to be as mellow as Mozartean basset horns (even though they weren’t!). The figurations in the violins stood out with absolute clarity in a way I’ve never heard before. The balance, in both volume and style, between the leader and the 1st flute in their little duet was incredible.
The horns had a most appealing timbre – as pleasant when playing quietly as when belting it out. The harps looked just like modern instruments, but their sound was mellower, and somehow it was always possible to tell the two apart. The timpani were crystal clear out in the auditorium (I’ll forgive the slightly dodgy tuning at the beginning of the third movement: a really good reason NOT to put the two sets on opposite sides of the stage, in my opinion).
Sarah Connolly was, as usual, faultless – her soprano colleague, Adriana Kučerová, was fine, if unclear enunciating the German text. The Philharmonia Chorus were immaculate in every way: their dynamic contrast was awe-inspiring, their intonation unimpeachable.
Vladimir Jurowski was the conductor – the second time in the past 12 months I’ve seen him direct a performance of such quality (the other was Shostakovich 8 with the LPO at the Proms last year, if you ask). His left hand is so expressive, nothing overstated but everything so meaningful. I wonder if his interpretation would have been different with a larger choir and modern-style orchestra? His brilliant analytical way of illuminating all the detail, his impeccable balance between sections of the band and his understanding of how to pace the performance so you felt neither steamrollered nor reined back was second to none.
This performance reminded me completely of the joys of performing music live, and has reinvigorated me in ways I could not have predicted. Incredible.