This concert, the last of three Carnegie Hall appearances by the MET Orchestra this Spring, marked the ensemble’s first-ever performance of a Bruckner Symphony. Yannick Nézet-Séguin recorded a Bruckner cycle between 2007 and 2017 with Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain.
Elīna Garanča delivered a consistently solid performance of Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder, only slightly marred by the presence of a music stand. While her eyes were never buried in the score, the presence of the aid lessened the feeling of spontaneity. She opened with an extroverted and appropriately playful rendering of ‘Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder’ (Look not into my songs), a delightful miniature that ends almost as soon as it begins, and she was convincing enough in the more spacious and tenderly delivered ‘Ich atmet einen linden Duft’ (I breathed a gentle fragrance). But the crown was the (here) middle song, ‘Um Mitternacht” (At midnight), in which the accompaniment perfectly complemented her dark, powerful and emphatically expressive mezzo, bringing out all the colors of Mahler’s ardently evocative music. Garanča took an equally bold and dramatic approach to both ‘Liebst du um Schönheit’ (If you love for beauty), and the poignantly introspective ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’ (I am lost to the world), where the English horn contribution was especially fine.
In the Bruckner, from the luxuriant opening cello theme to the noble fanfares of the Finale, the performance was totally dedicated and the MET Orchestra sounded magnificent. Conducting from memory and without a baton, Nézet-Séguin drew radiant string tone, in a spacious reading, rich in sonority yet sometimes surprisingly transparent in texture. This was especially true in the vivid and rhythmically infectious Scherzo. The great second-movement Adagio displayed stunning concentration, the conductor’s elegant gestures emphasizing and bringing out the full nobility of Bruckner’s breathtakingly beautiful sonority. The opening Allegro moderato was taken on the slower side, the music smoothly and steadily flowing forward at an appealingly graceful pace; and the gleaming Finale was replete with verve and technical skill.