SCRUTINY | TSO: Happy Ending and Then Some in Mahler's Second

By Arthur Kaptainis on June 11, 2015

Toronto Symphony Orchestra, with Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and guests, perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 2. Photo: Brendan Zamojc

Toronto Symphony Orchestra, with Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and guests. Peter Oundjian, conductor. Repeats Friday night at Roy Thomson Hall.

Peter Oundjian last programmed Mahler’s Second Symphony (“Resurrection”) as a rousing opener to the 2010-11 Toronto Symphony Orchestra season. It rematerialized in Roy Thomson Hall on Wednesday, marking no special occasion and celebrating nothing other than itself.

And why not? I am always up for a sermon on the life everlasting, and the great finale, made of glorious sonorities onstage and off, did not fail. Oundjian found respiration in the phrasing and drama in the entries. Brass playing was firm, woodwinds were colourful and strings had the ring of truth.

Most important, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir  (prepared by Noel Edison) entered with breathtaking solemnity. Remarkable how gripping a pianissimo equilibrium can be.

Not that grand climaxes lacked anything in magnitude. Gentlemen in particular made an impressive sound. Mezzo-soprano Susan Platts and soprano Erin Wall added beautiful solos from an embedded position near the (alert as always) percussion.

I was less taken by what came before. The scherzo had some bite, but Oundjian seemed to take an all-things-in-moderation view of the mighty opening movement. No need to observe the pause Mahler demanded as a means of dissipating energy: The coda did that rather nicely.

There was much delicate chamber playing in the second movement, but the footprint again was light. Platts summoned Mahlerian warmth in the Urlicht movement, deeply felt if sometimes noticeably vibrated. Instrumental solos everywhere were superb – this being a TSO concert.

The crowd was big, as it should be for a choral program, and the response after nearly 90 minutes was exuberant. A solo cougher added a prominent obbligato to the finale. Perhaps the orchestra can hope for less interference in the repeat performance of Friday.


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