Elizabeth Bishop (mezzo-soprano)
UMS Choral Union
Michigan State University Children’s Choir
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: 30 May, 2014
Venue: Orchestra Hall, Detroit, Michigan
With no intermission, nor should there be one, a few minutes’ breather was taken to allow the ladies and children of the choir to arrive before Part 2 (the remaining five movements) commenced, firstly a flowery gambol painting meadows and contentment, seductively turned, contrasted with more frolicsome episodes, nimbly executed, and all teasingly wound-down to the close. Animals come to the fore in the next movement – by the way, Mahler suppressed his original explicit movement-titles, but they give a clue – opening with cat-like tread, perky woodwinds joining in, and then a mix of the playful, furtive and rambunctious, before a calm oasis signalled by a faraway on-high posthorn solo, here a trumpet by the sound of it, if nicely distanced and smoothly played.
Elizabeth Bishop now entered – maybe, to avoid the feeling of ‘now it’s my turn’, she should have done so along with her chair and the choristers – for the darkest music of the Symphony, a setting of Nietzsche’s ‘Midnight Song’, a little wobbly at times and some may have missed the bird-like glissandos that other conductors have introduced for the contributions from oboe and cor anglais (English horn). Great contrast was then offered by the bells and bright voices of the next movement, here a little earnest – although didn’t Mahler ask for boys’ voices? – but the slow finale, well-timed in its attacca and perfectly paced, was compassionately played and sublime in expression – Slatkin now baton-less – not without growing pains and aching remembrances as it increased in ecstasy (for a few bars flautist David Buck lit the way) to journey’s end, a glorious golden-brass, timpani-underpinned processional, strings gleaming through.