NEW WORLD SYMPHONY
VIENNESE MUSICAL TRADITIONS (3-25-06)
NEW WORLDíS MAGIC BATONS STIR EXCITEMENT
By Lawrence Budmen
When Michael Tilson Thomas mounts the New World Symphony podium for a survey of Viennese Musical Traditions, Austro-German waltz rhythms are only a subtext for a larger symphonic canvass. Saturdayís program at the Lincoln Theater crossed a vast spectrum from Anton Webernís atonal miniatures to the guilt ridden angst of Mahlerís Kindertotenlieder to Schubertís final symphony of heavenly length.
Webernís Six Pieces for Orchestra are terrifying, eerie, and mistily haunting. The composerís mastery of refined melodic cells produces a shimmering, evocative sound world with the subtlest of orchestral resources. The exotic bells at the conclusion of the funeral march are but one of this scoreís instrumental wonders. Tilson Thomas is the absolute master of this music and the New World players brought a svelte, glistening tonal compass and edgy intensity to this memorable revival.
Mahlerís setting of Friedrich Ruckertís Songs on the Death of Children foretells the end of a musical era. For many listeners this powerful cycle is inextricably linked to the great Canadian mezzo Maureen Forrester Ė the earth mother of Mahler. While Forrester produced a rich cavern of sound and declaimed the text with the subtlety of a lieder singer, the Finnish mezzo Lilli Paasikivi sang with minimal vibrato. Her elastic phrasing of the vocal line conveyed a cyclorama of emotion.
Tilson Thomasís version of Schubertís Symphony No.9 in C Major was sometimes brass heavy. Like Toscanini and the late German podium icon Gunter Wand, Tilson Thomasís approach was swift paced, high on surging momentum, low on Schubertian lyricism. Except for an initial horn fluff and some imprecise wind playing in the first movement, the orchestra responded with brilliant, electrifying musicianship. The conductorís magisterial shaping of the Andante was impressive. Tilson Thomas offered an arresting revisionist view of this composerís orchestral swan song.
Hans Peter Ochsenhofer, principal violist of the Vienna Philharmonic (who had coached the New World players) took over the baton for a rich, lilting, thoroughly Viennese performance of Brahmsís Hungarian Dance No.1 Ė a delightful bon-bon to conclude an evening of provocative music making.