Donna Perlmutter on LA Observed has been closely watching Mirga Grazynte-Tyla at the Philharmonic.
Here’s what she writes:
I’m describing what happened when maestra Mirga (let’s simply dispose of her last name for now) did Mahler Four with the Philharmonic. She let out all the stops, gave Mahler his head in each touchstone of the above and let the score dictate those emotionally graphic environments in full-out dimension.
Now understand the 30-year-old Lithuanian (full name: Mirga Grazynte-Tyla), who has taken over the Birmingham Symphony, is enormously talented — not just based on various critical observations but, more important, on the elite professional company she keeps. But she’s a new breed. The feminine breed. Not the masculine stereotype at all, although in these days of fluid gender — the next Playmate of the Month is a transie! — who’s to say where the line gets drawn. (And while we’re at it, there’s hardly a male conductor — not Bernstein, not Dudamel — who has not used an expressly feminine gesture to cull an effect from players, proving that gender i.d. can be multi-faceted.)
So get this: In front of a huge orchestra playing Mahler, gargantuan music that often looms over the world, she remains a slight figure, as they say, a mere slip of a girl. When it storms she jumps up and down — like a feather, not with power. She leads with her undulating arms, mostly bare arms (while all orchestra members and all conductors, even other women baton-wielders, are sleeved).
And because Mirga uses no shoulder engagement, the kind needed to lean in and down to embrace low strings and draw a sense of sweeping depth, the sound doesn’t match the picture that players usually rely on. Instead, she resorts to fiercely gesticulating fingers, powerful facial animation and, in rhythmically geometric music, angular arm movements.
One observer wrote: “Mirga needs to find her inner man” — for which he was roundly criticized. But then the creative connoisseur Gidon Kremer, who knows best, has given Mirga a big nod — so that pretty much takes care of that issue. He joined her and the orchestra for the Weinberg Violin Concerto and together they summoned up this grave, dense work so darkly gripping in the eastern European spirit of Shostakovich — as Kremer’s playing conjured distant, far-away cries in the night, aptly enervated.
Full review here.