In performance: BSO with Mahler and Mozart
BSO goes pretty with cozy standards
by Charles T. Downey
If anything, the program offered by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra on Friday night at Meyerhoff Hall was too pretty, too easy on the ears. Continuing an unofficial traversal of Gustav Mahler's symphonies, music director Marin Alsop gave up on last season's unsuccessful pairing of Mahler's music with that of Leonard Bernstein. Instead the concert matched Mahler's most radiant, least neurotic symphony, the fourth, with some cozy Mozart.
(read more after the jump)
Susanna Phillips's pellucid soprano voice, heard in an excellent recital earlier in the week, seemed optimally suited to Mahler's last movement. The poem it sets, "Das himmlische Leben" from the "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" collection, is a childlike description of a heaven where, on fast days, the fish swim up to offer themselves as food for the blessed. Indeed, Phillips sang the solo with gorgeous, well-supported clarity, a shining, simple but not colorless sound, limpid and calm on the mysterious chords of "Sankt Peter im Himmel sieht zu," which return as a refrain.
The BSO responded with some of its best playing in the Mahler, especially in themonumental slow movement. Alsop seemed more at ease here than in her previous Mahler symphonies in Baltimore, allowing the music to unfold joyfully and with its quirks rather than allowing too many of her own to intrude.
An adequate but generic rendition of Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" was a pleasant enough introduction, although any of the shorter, less-performed Mozart symphonies of the 1770s would have been more interesting. Three of Mozart's concert arias were lovely but brought out a slightly edgier quality in Phillips's voice.
-- Charles T. Downey
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