Review: Rattle and the London Symphony, on U.S. tour with Mahler cycle

Posted on: May 29, 2018

“On June 20th, Simon Rattle will end a sixteen-year tenure as the principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic—a post of quasi-papal authority in the classical-music world,” writes Alex Ross in the May 28 issue of the New Yorker. “He became the music director of the London Symphony Orchestra last September, and the orchestra is playing sensationally well for him…. Each of the L.S.O. concerts [performed in May in New York and New Jersey] consisted of a single late-period Mahler work: the Ninth Symphony, ‘Das Lied von der Erde,’ and the unfinished Tenth Symphony, in the realization by Deryck Cooke…. Where other conductors emphasize voluptuous, post-Wagnerian sonorities, Rattle prefers a leaner, tighter sound…. He keeps to a steadier tempo…. In the savage Rondo-Burleske of the Ninth Symphony, he refused to linger over the aching phrases in the movement’s contrasting lyric episode [and] the return of the slashing main theme didn’t induce a shiver of terror…. His strategy of intensification through restraint paid off in the final pages…. The strings played at times with little or no vibrato, producing an eerie ‘white’ sound.… Here, the music seemed to emanate from the other side of the line between life and death.”

Posted May 29, 2018