Sunday, December 5, 2010


Truth be told, it was all about Lilli. For me I mean.

Last week the Sydney Symphony Orchestra clocked up Mahler's Third in their Mahler journey, which finishes at the end of next year with the Second, again with Lilli Passikivi, of course, thank goodness. So they began with the First and finish with the Second. I need to think about the sequencing some more, but the Second is definitely the one to wrap it up.

It was another full house, although I suspect not completely full of Mahler tragics. The coughing was pretty bad, and most likely there was a fair smattering of children's parents. Shouldn't complain though - no parents, no children, no Bimm Bamm (which is when they stopped coughing).

The start was fantastic with a thrilling call to march from the horns. Things sagged a bit in the long middle, and Mahler does tend to sag when he gets into 'what's going on in the world' mode. I think I like my Mahler on the faster side of very slow.

Enter Lilli. I love her voice. It's rich and warm and caressing and very reassuring, which I think is what Mahler needed, reassurance that is, don't we all. Maybe I'd forgotten, but she sounded fuller and richer and the voice perfectly centred for the Midnight Song. And how could I have forgotten how she sings (in recital) with her whole body.

The big finale got a few to their feet, led in fact by a certain past prime minister, who jumped up like the old days in question time. It was good. In fact K particularly liked it, despite his criticism of poor dynamic balance, perhaps related to where we sit. It was a change from the last time we heard it (LSO Barbican) when I was quite transported and he was completely unmoved - we had a rare domestic because the tube station was closed and I couldn't care less about going anywhere let alone back to the hotel. I ended up walking across London (to Berkeley Square) -- on my own.

If you can't hear Lilli, then this should make up. It's the fabulous and commanding contralto Norma Procter on the Horenstein LSO 1970 recording which I'd been listening to in readiness.

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