Tom Strini
Review

De Waart’s triumphant start

By - Sep 26th, 2009 10:59 pm
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Edo de Waart

Edo de Waart. Photo by Todd Dacquisto.

A big crowd gave new maestro Edo de Waart a warm welcome before the concert and a hero’s ovation after it Saturday evening, as the Milwaukee Symphony opened its 51st classical subscription season.

De Waart started his tenure as music director with something big, Mahler’s vast, complex Symphony No. 5. I’d always heard this piece as a lofty philosophical document. It had depth Saturday, particularly in a slow movement that read as a love song so private, of such quivering delicacy, that it seemed more imagined than sung.

But the balance of the music came off as a boisterous celebration of everything a mighty, virtuosic symphony orchestra can do and everything an outrageously imaginative composer could think of to do with it. Brilliant fanfares from Mark Niehaus’ trumpet and elegant melodies from the horn of William Barnewitz signaled miraculous transformations throughout the work. Marches became klezmer tunes and ardent, glamorous songs became dances and light fantastics became stomping furies before our very ears. All the while, virtuoso ornaments hovered and darted about the ever-changing main themes.

De Waart’s job in all this was to govern the ebb and flow of momentum to make a coherent whole and to make sure that each unlikely change in character came into spectacular full bloom. The orchestra’s job was to sail over the composer’s high bar from a commanding altitude, from a place where the concerns are not hitting notes but bathing them in just the right color and charging them with just the right force of accent, as specified by de Waart. The players did all of that, and the result was an hour of sonic delight and astonishment.

The high anxiety of Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 1 (“Jeremiah”)  opened the program. De Waart tuned the harmonies of the first movement to a serrated edge and made desperate jollity of the crazed dance of a scherzo.

The Lamentation, the final movement, was also a revelation, as it introduced us to mezzo Sasha Cooke. This is a big, rich, intensely present voice driven by perceptive musical intelligence. Her singing was beautiful in many ways: as outraged protest, as utter despair, and as a lonely voice crying out amid the aftermath of disaster.

This program, given at Marcus Center Uihlein Hall, will be repeated at 2:30 p.m. Sunday (Sept. 27). Visit the MSO web site for more information. Call the Marcus Center box office, 414 273-7206, for tickets.

Other reviews: Rick WaltersElaine Schmidt

0 thoughts on “Review: De Waart’s triumphant start”

  1. Anonymous says:

    You said it! 2nd season with the MSO, went 18 times last year. Most everything I hear is for my first time – as was this program Saturday night. Incredible! And did I count 5 curtain calls after Mahler??? Wow – loved being at this first show! (must stop…leaving for Chicago at 8am to see Baryshnikov and Impressionist paintings at the Art Institute!!) -Robert

  2. Anonymous says:

    this Sunday afternoon I return to the MSO box seat where i’ve perched for three plus decades. I was there when the PAC opened to great fanfare, could it be that was the late 60s? In a ballgown, long white gloves, and a Jackie O hairdo, I was there.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I found the Mahler revelatory–it has always seemed to me a series of (wonderful) events, but this was the first time I heard it as one grand saga, one continuous arc from beginning to end. And yes, that WAS 5 curtain calls–very rare, and very satisfying!

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