qatsi (qatsi) wrote,
qatsi
qatsi

Das Lied von der Erde, and other Light Classics*

Despite the continuing damp weather, I headed into London for two Proms on Sunday. The first was an afternoon organ recital by Wayne Marshall, focused on mostly twentieth century French composers: Messiaen, his teacher, contemporaries and successors. The names on the programme weren't particularly familiar to me; of those other than Messiaen, I think I had heard of Dupré but that was all. The opening work, Demessieux's Te Deum, and Dupré's Organ Symphony No. 2 were the highlights for me. (The programme notes drew particular attention to the use of the "string" pipes in the latter piece, which were clearly recognisable). Marshall finished with an energetic improvisation, starting from a theme of Messiaen's Turangalîla Symphony.

The evening concert consisted of two works. In the first half, Beethoven's Symphony No. 1 was a reminder of the composer's lighter mood. Like a bit of Haydn, and other contemporaries, this work sounded a little like Mozart, but so much better. The second half was altogether darker, with Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde. I felt that tenor Johan Botha was struggling to be heard above the orchestra in the opening Das Trinkleid vom Jammer der Erde. This could have been my position in the arena; certainly Botha seemed to be giving his all, so if there was any fault in the balance, it was with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Donald Runnicles. His partner for the evening was mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill, who didn't really come into her own until the final movement, Der Abschied, which was hauntingly beautiful and poignant. The length of the final movement, about as much as the preceding five movements put together, makes it difficult to feel that the work as a whole is balanced, but the performance was certainly competent.

*Tom Lehrer, preamble to Alma.
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