DESKTOP
TABLET (max. 1024px)
MOBILE (max. 640px)
Return to Top
Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

SCRUTINY | Toronto Symphony Gets A Five Or A Six For This Mahler Seventh

By Arthur Kaptainis on May 16, 2019

The TSO’s performance of Mahler’s Seventh led by Sir Andrew Davis on Wednesday night left us with more questions than answers.

Conductor Sir Andrew Davis and guest pianist Louis Lortie
Conductor Sir Andrew Davis and guest pianist Louis Lortie (Photo: Jag Gundu)

Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Sir Andrew Davis (conductor), Louis Lortie (soloist) at Roy Thomson Hall. May 15. Repeats May 16. Details, here

Not all symphonies get me out of the house as reliably as Mahler’s Seventh, a 75-minute compendium of chaotic themes, neurotic rhythms and exuberant colours that is easy to admire but wickedly difficult to understand. I am not sure I know M7 any better after hearing the Toronto Symphony Orchestra performance led Wednesday evening by Sir Andrew Davis. The repeat Thursday will probably go better, to say nothing of the concert Tuesday in the Maison symphonique in Montreal.

Of course, the TSO is the TSO, so certain basics were intact, including stalwart fanfares and decent solos by the principal horn and trumpet (and a few of their allies). But much of the sonority, and therefore the rhetoric, was pitched at the treble end of the spectrum and a good deal of Sir Andrew’s energetic circle-drawing seemed aimed at keeping the music moving rather than underlining any of its peculiar post-romantic qualities.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra (Photo: Jag Gundu)

Violins were numerous (the total musician count was 100) but low on fibre. We would never guess the Nachtmusik title of the second movement. The Scherzo was pushed rather than self-propelling, its Trio section oddly bland. There was some easygoing charm in the penultimate movement (with its traces of mandolin and guitar) but only the uncomplicated, full-blast optimism of the finale got what sounded like its interpretive due.

The first of five movements opens with a solo for something Mahler called the tenor horn. The unfortunate expedient on this occasion was to ask the principal trombone to play a tenor tuba, in effect doing double duty, with an extra trombone standing by. When the Seventh was last given in Roy Thomson Hall, by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra in 2014, Kent Nagano hired a specialist.

This was not Davis’s first crack at the Seventh with the TSO. He programmed it as music director in 1980 and 1985. There was also a charismatic TSO performance in 1965 under Hermann Scherchen, which is found on YouTube. Remarkable the difference 54 years can make — in reverse!

Conductor Sir Andrew Davis and composer Chan Ka Nin (Photo: Jag Gundu)
Conductor Sir Andrew Davis and composer Chan Ka Nin (Photo: Jag Gundu)

The brief first “half” of this concert started with a revival of one of the TSO’s 2017 “Sesquies”: Chan Ka Nin’s My Most Beautiful, Wonderful, Terrific, Amazing, Fantastic, Magnificent Homeland. The composer seemed determined to pack a lot of syncopated rhythm (and a reference to O Canada) into his allotted time. Then came Franck’s Symphonic Variations with Louis Lortie, an old friend of the TSO, at the piano.

The start was strong: Warm, vigorous strings contrasted with thoughtful soliloquies from the soloist. Unfortunately, the 16-minute piece does not sustain itself well. Cellos seemed only vaguely interested in their assignment. Maybe things will pick up in Montréal.

LUDWIG VAN TORONTO

Want more updates on classical music and opera news and reviews? Follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter for all the latest.

Arthur Kaptainis

Arthur Kaptainis

Arthur Kaptainis has been the classical music critic of the Montreal Gazette since 1986 and wrote for the National Post 2010-2016. His articles have appeared in Classical Voice North America and La Scena Musicale as well as Ludwig Van. Arthur holds an MA in musicology from the University of Toronto.
Arthur Kaptainis
Arthur Kaptainis

Arthur Kaptainis

Arthur Kaptainis has been the classical music critic of the Montreal Gazette since 1986 and wrote for the National Post 2010-2016. His articles have appeared in Classical Voice North America and La Scena Musicale as well as Ludwig Van. Arthur holds an MA in musicology from the University of Toronto.
Arthur Kaptainis
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300
comments powered by Disqus

Ludwig Van Toronto

THE SCOOP | Royal Conservatory's 2019/20 Season Sets The Stage For New Stars And Veterans Alike

By Anya Wassenberg on June 4, 2019

Incorporating 97 concerts and events, the Royal Conservatory of Music announced a 2019/20 Koerner Hall season with much to please Toronto fans of classical music, along with jazz, blues, world music, and more.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Davidsen And Fleming: A Tale Of Two Sopranos Coming And Going

By Norman Lebrecht on June 7, 2019

A soprano at the start of her journey cuts a debut album as another reaches what must be the end. The contrasts are simply too compelling to ignore.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article

THE SCOOP | COC And NAC Announces New Co-Commission To Replace Misused Nisga’a Song In Louis Riel Opera

By Michael Vincent on June 4, 2019

In the spirit of reconciliation, the Canadian Opera Company and the National Arts Centre have agreed to replace a Nisg̱a’a song misused in the Harry Somers opera, Louis Riel.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_low_590x300
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700

We have detected that you are using an adblocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website. Please whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.