James Conlon’s speech before the Juilliard Orchestra’s concert of the Mahler 3rd on Tuesday night at the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall was a case in point that it is intelligence and enthusiasm, not eloquence, that makes addressing the audience a tangible success. Coincidentally, what is true for Conlon and the spoken word was equally true for the Juilliard School’s orchestra when it comes to played notes. Rather than boring the audience to tears with mundane details about financial underwriters (important as they are) or whether his second trombonists likes to bungee-jump, Conlon spoke about the third symphony and other parts of Mahler’s oeuvre in a way that was accessible enough to make sense to the Mahler newbies in the audience and personal enough to be entertaining to all those Mahler aficionados that thought nothing of facing temperatures near zero in order to make it to a live performance of a (and any) Mahler symphony.
T. L. Ponick, Young musicians lift Mahler's work (Washington Times, December 15)
Tim Page, A First-Rate Mahler Third (Washington Post, December 15)
G. Mahler, Symphony No.3, C.Abbado / BPh
The steady and straightforward performance of mezzo Jane Gilbert was good, self conscious in avoiding all hissing sounds – with a trace of good country girl. I would not have wanted a bigger voice; if anything, I would have wanted a more lithe, more seductive, more urban, more mysterious voice. Anne Sofie von Otter or Anna Larsson come to mind – but that’s a Mahlerian’s wishful thinking. Reilly-Lewis's Cathedral Choral Society’s choir along with the National Cathedral School’s Children’s Choir made a most valuable contribution to the success of the whole, too – not only considering that one dress rehearsal was all they got in performance with the orchestra.
G. Mahler, Symphony No.3, P.Boulez / WPh
It took James Conlon – a hot candidate for the succession of Leonard Slatkin and back in town with the NSO in the second week of January – longer to recover from the tour de force than the audience which leapt unto its feet in an uniform instant, applauding along with the trampling and cheering orchestra members far longer than hitherto experienced at the Kennedy Center. When Mahler’s 2nd and 8th come around in June, you can’t say we weren’t prepared!