MSO’s amazing Mahler 7, plus Kalichstein’s Beethoven
Hearing Mahler’s epic Symphony No. 7 Friday was like walking across a continent — if Oz were that continent.
Mahler piled wonder atop wonder in his his Seventh. The music challenged conductor Edo de Waart and an expanded Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra to take none of those wonders for granted. They did not; high energy and acute awareness informed this reading, in which conductor and players remarked on every bizarre turn of events, sharply delineated gestures and fully saturated the colors of those gestures.
Mahler here comments on the nature of the fanfare, the march, the waltz, the aria, the pastorale. He introduces each denomination in the common musical currency of his day with nearly Classical clarity, then proceeds to develop them beyond overripe decadence and into the realm of the surreal. You could hear well-known forms warp like so many Dali clocks and then overlap and blend in dizzying ways.
Occasional disorientation is all part of listening to this piece, but de Waart knew where Mahler was going. He aimed the whole 80 minutes of it to the final moments; after a dazzling, bewildering, exhilarating journey, we arrived at transcendent closure.
That would have been plenty for one program, but there’s more.
Pianist Joseph Kalichstein joined de Waart and the orchestra in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Everyone agreed on this premise: This concerto is about the difference between Classical poise and Romantic complexity and ardor. Kalichstein and the orchestra delivered that, starting with the easy, pliant grace of the first statement of the first theme and its immediate rise to fiery intensity. Hearing this performance was like getting to know someone who is all elegance and manners on the outside and all demons within.
This matinee program, given Friday at Marcus Center Uihlein Hall, will be repeated at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2. Click here for links and ticket information.