The MSO’s Mahler Third
A vast, fantastical chorale, aglow with a unique, ardent warmth ended the Milwaukee Symphony’s performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 Friday night. It rose to a grand and apparently redemptive climax, but Mahler and music director Edo de Waart weren’t quite ready to grant salvation. They built to another big climax, this one laced with a bit of the angst and doubt and troubled harmony of the first and fifth movements.
True redemption came only at the very end, in a climax that grew not so much from building and striving, as the previous two had. This one expanded in resonance rather than volume, as chords and timbres bloomed to fill Uihlein Hall and envelope the listener. Release, not effort, won salvation.
Thus does this music create meaning, which these words reflect but dimly. To be in that room was to feel something vibrating in the world in a way beyond words. What was it like? Standing atop Everest? Gazing from the rim of the Grand Canyon? Words fail.
In Edo de Waart’s hands, Mahler’s drama remained taut for the entire 90 minutes, though this symphony abounds in tangents and caprices. Bizarre takes on Hungarian folk dances, for example, keep interrupting the dainty minuet in the second movement. Seconds after Kelley O’Connor intoned Nietzsche’s Romantic awakening from a dark night of the soul in her dark, weighty mezzo, she entered an exchange of child’s rhymes with the innocent voices of the Milwaukee Children’s Choir.
We all took a long, hard, thrilling journey Friday, and we arrived at the mountaintop weary, glad and somehow changed.
Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 will be performed again at 8 p.m. Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. This is the final classics program of the MSO’s 2009-2010 season. For tickets, call the Marcus Center box office, 414-273-7206. For further information, visit the MSO website.
Click here to read an interview with Edo de Waart regarding Mahler’s Third.