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On Forbes: Boston Symphony Orchestra & Andris Nelsons in Vienna

Boston Symphony's Gift To Mahler In Vienna

…As always with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) in combination with Andris Nelsons, expectations are extremely high – even or especially after they were somewhat disappointing when I heard them last summer at Grafenegg. (Forbes review here.) The opening, especially that cor anglais (courtesy Robert Sheena) gorgeously emerging with lots of personality from a sweet swell of strings, was most auspicious. Not just for the coherence and sweep, but especially for the well-shaped many little climaxes that didn’t overly tax the acoustic of the Golden Hall which might be famous but is hardly a natural fit for the really big romantic repertoire. Many – most – visiting orchestras struggle, but the BSO this night kept it perfectly within the limits. Overly picky ears might have pointed to peaks of volume reached in the third movement (Rondo-Burleske), as going to the limit of what the hall can comfortably handle. But then again this movement, “very defiant”, is not primarily meant to be comfortable.

Hungry Bears and Blauer Portugieser

What distinguishes the Ninth Symphony from its ten siblings – making it unique in that sense among Mahler’s symphonies – is its sense of calm and contentment. Granted, there’s still a good deal of the usual Angst and those twisted question marks in the first movement, where hints of music-on-the-edge-of-the seat (foreshadowing the Tenth Symphony) pop up to screaming…

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