Behind the scenes of Simon Rattle’s Berlin performance the Royal Festival Hall last night, I heard word of challenging developments. A colleague, just back from Caracas, was on a high from attending Gustavo Dudamel’s first performance of the work with the Simon Bolivar youth orchestra.
This was a first run-out ahead of the joint Mahler Projec
t he is planning next year with his hometown band and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. It may not come out sounding as polished as the Berlin Philharmonic, but it has got my juices flowing for the future of Mahler interpretation once the centennial year is over.
Then, in the mail, came the last concert in the life of Dmitri Mitropoulos, the gay Greek giant who was hounded out of the New York Philharmonic and who died at La Scala in November 1960 while rehearsing this selfsame symphony. Before travelling to Milan, he performed it with the radio orchestra in Cologne. that concert has been retrieved from the archives and released on the Analekta label.
The opening is as different from Rattle’s as night from day – ominous, juddering, weighted with multiple connotations. Aside from the conductor’s structural certainty, a sense of foreboding is ineluctable – tragic and true. This is another Mahler record you should not miss.