|the program on Nov 19|
The balance of the orchestra really threw me off. The brass section was particularly unbalanced from the rest of the orchestra. They felt more like solo instruments playing in front of the whole orchestra rather like members from it. Mahler 7 demands a very sharp sound from the brass to melt into the high voices of the strings, but from the sound of the orchestra the two were very apart from each other. At times both sections seem to have a lack of attack. Even when the orchestra was playing at full intensity the two did not have an overwhelming, joint-force effect. On the contrary, MTT’s approach to the woodwind section was rather monochromatically aggressive. At times they almost sounded like percussion instruments rather than woodwinds. This negative experience might partially be the acoustic design of the Carnegie Hall, as my seat was situated in the second tier box, and the sound of the brass might be sent straight through the hall to my seat rather than reflecting off the space.
|San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in Carnegie Hall on Nov 19|
Another surprise was the lack of dynamic. MTT always leaves me with the impression of precise rhythmic control, energetic and analytical phrasing from the recordings. During the Wednesday concert, MTT didn’t seem to want to take the opportunity to bite into the rich and detailed writing of Mahler and bring the rhythmic energy out of it. Last year I attended a concert of MTT conducting Mahler 9 with Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I remember that even though the string section was not particularly the strength of CSO, it had a really wonderful brilliance through the precise phrasing and the analytical reading under the baton of MTT. With this expectation brought into this Mahler 7 concert, I was much uninspired. It might very much be MTT’s change in approach to Mahler 7. Rather making the symphony clear and analytical, he tried to bring a more coherent quality to the entire symphony in order to tackle the “problematic” transition from night to light. However, with the conscious undermining of the strong contrasting dynamics in the opening movements, MTT missed the most important part of Mahler’s Symphony- the drama.