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

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s Mahler 8 Doesn't Go Far Enough

By Norman Lebrecht on February 14, 2020

Mahler: Eighth Symphony (DG)

★★☆☆☆

  Spotify | Apple Music | Amazon

The largest symphony ever written, designed for the outdoors and knocked off in six summer weeks without revision, Mahler never expected to see the 8th performed. When an impresario booked it for Munich in 1910, the Symphony of 1,000 afforded Mahler the greatest triumph of his life. He did not conduct it again and both his close disciples, Bruno Walter and Otto Klemperer, shunned it.

Its gigantic size and cost make performances a rarity and good performances a dream. I can count the great ones I have heard in four decades on three fingers — Klaus Tennstedt in London, Riccardo Chailly in Leipzig, Andris Nelsons in Birmingham. The other half-dozen concerts I attended failed, due either to inadequate rehearsal, miscalculated balance, inferior soloists or — most common — insufficient immersion on the conductor’s part in Mahler’s mind world.

Where Yannick Nézet-Séguin goes wrong in this often impressive Philadelphia concert is in his dramatisation of the work as a celebration of German and Catholic traditions. This might have worked if the composer was Bruckner, a naïve believer. But Mahler was a complex character who struggled with faith and identity. He refused the consolations of the Church on his deathbed and referred to himself often as a Jew. This work reflects his confusion and insecurity.

Yannick’s performance loses my attention three-quarters of the way through the Pentecost hymn in the first part, and seldom regains it during the scene from Goethe’s Faust that constitutes the second part. It’s fired up and finely played, but the vital Mahlerian tension is missing. Listen to Tennstedt and you’ll hear what I mean. Better still: listen to the orchestral interlude between the two halves and ask yourselves why, in this performance, it does not bridge the gap.

To read more from Norman Lebrecht, follow him on Slippedisc.com.

Norman Lebrecht’s new book Genius and Anxiety is available now.

#LUDWIGVAN

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

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300
comments powered by Disqus

Ludwig Van Toronto

LISZTS | 10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Roy Thomson Hall

By Michael Vincent on February 3, 2020

Interesting factoids about Toronto's iconic Roy Thomson Hall that may surprise you.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300

THE SCOOP | Toronto Star Cuts Arts Reporting To Almost Nothing

By Michael Vincent on February 3, 2020

The Toronto Star has quietly shuttered the remnants of its once mightily entertainment section, leaving all but a handful of writers under a single editor.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article

THE SCOOP | Grieving Father Asks Opera Company To Reserve Seats For Family Lost In Flight PS752

By Michael Vincent on February 19, 2020

A post goes viral as a grieving father asks the Canadian Opera Company to reserve the seats meant for family members who were lost in the downing of flight PS752 earlier this year.
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.