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Review: Mahler 2 Resurrection at the Concourse Chatswood

Review by Charlotte Leamon

 

The Ku-ring-gai Philharmonic Orchestra (KPO) is joined by the Willoughby Symphony Choir to perform Mahler’s second symphony titled Resurrection. Performing their first concert of the year this work includes 76 musicians, 100 choir members and two soloists. A story of darkness and light, Mahler questions what life is to come after death. Beginning with a funeral march and ending with a hymn of resurrection, this remarkable work is one of the greatest of all musical climaxes. 

 

The first movement begins with drama, a concoction of stern strings stating this serious funeral march. As the orchestration builds and the trumpet enters the dynamics are of great importance. Conductor Paul Terracini cues dynamic changes very clearly and emotionally, providing sweeping gestures in conjunction with crescendos. 

 

The second movement, a calm Austrian folk dance, gracefully enters with sonorous strings. This contrasting mood from movement one to two brings the listener to a place of nostalgia and comfort. The strings do a sterling job of transitioning into the pizzicato section and the flute melody intersecting with the harp is wonderfully balanced as the passing of phrases and melodies continue. 

 

The third movement stated as, “in peaceful flowing motion” is anything but for the performers. A ferocious feat for all with ornamental woodwind trills, scalic strings and booming timpani. There were some untidy moments in this movement as the turbulence progressed. Terracini’s disappointment with the percussion section was evident, as the crashing cymbals and vital timely entries were missed. However, he did well in controlling the situation and making the other sections shine. On the contrary, the trumpet section was intricate and powerful where need be, soaring in melodic sections and providing extreme dynamic variation. As the clarinet solo shined through and the col legno strings faded we heard the solo of the “Urlicht”, a meditation for the opening of the fourth movement.

 

The fourth movement introduces text and voice. Celeste Haworth in mezzo soprano was confident in her performance and range. Entering with gusto for her three-note motive, Haworth’s tone was rich and crystal-like.

 

The fifth movement, the day of resurrection! The choir unfortunately did not enter with as much delicacy as need be in this movement. Consonants were not aligned and the tenderness in volume was not quite delivered. Since the choir started louder than they should have, soprano Imogen-Faith Malfitano was not heard as well as hoped. When her voice did shine through, it was with clarity and dynamic control. 

 

Overall, Mahler’s Resurrection is a large work that takes much gusto, preparation and time to master. This is a challenge for any orchestra, and the KPO performed it very well but not to the standard that should be met. With unfortunate mishaps from percussion and a non-cohesive choir, this performance lost credit where it should have been met. The soloists and trumpets were stand-outs in this performance, as were the woodwind. Terracini is a great conductor, perhaps time was an issue and not enough preparation as the orchestra barely glanced up to take his dynamic inflections and cues into consideration but rather focused on technique and pitch. Despite these issues, the overall performance was achieved with great dynamic inflection and control.


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