Saturday, June 11, 2011

ONF - Mahler 8

Symphony no.8 by Mahler, Théâtre du Châtelet, June 10 2011

Daniele Gatti

Daniele Gatti ..... conductor

Erin Wall ..... soprano
Melanie Diener ..... soprano
Kerstin Avemo ..... soprano
Christine Knorren ..... mezzo
Marie-Nicole Lemieux ..... alto
Nikolai Schukoff ..... tenor
Detlef Roth ..... baritone
James Morris ..... bass

Orchestre National de France (ONF)
Chorus of the Sächische Staatsoper Dresden (Pablo Assante)
Chorus of the Radio France (Matthias Brauer)
Maîtrise de Radio France (Sofi Jenin)

This was the first time for me to listen to the "Symphony of a Thousand" in a live performance. I obviously liked it on the recordings but for some indefinite reason I never got to attend a concert with Mahler's 8th. After last night's concert I understand why it is not more often performed actually: you need a large cast of singers, you need two large choruses, in addition to a children's chorus, and a very large orchestra. I wonder if Daniele Gatti gets more excited before taking the stage to conduct this kind of volume but he seemed very careful to it all click right, because with this kind of work it is easy to make it all sound noisy and/or messy. Last night Gatti was in great form! 

Marie Nicole Lemieux, Christine Knorren, Melanie Diener, Erin Wall

Nikola Schukoff, Detlef Roth, James Morris

The soloists were all excellent. Erin Wall is pushy in the top notes but is singing gloriously. Never listed to her before and so I was very impressed last night. Melanie Diener (THE best Fidelio ever!) was standing next to Erin and it was great to listen them outsinging each other. Two sopranos dominated the other cast members, but the others were very good too. Nikolai Schukoff is always good and reliable and I am glad we get to see him relatively often in Paris. James Morris and Detlef Roth completed the male cast and sang beautifully their solo parts too. Pretty and pure voice of Kirsten Avemo's emerged in the last part from the fantastic choruses from Dresden and Paris. Christine Knorren is also a new name for me -- and she too was a pleasant surprise last night. Marie-Nicole Lemieux assured the gravi on the female side of the cast, and did it very well as usual.

Kerstin Avemo in the middle

But what a grand Symphony! Definitely not the finest of Mahler's works but the sheer grandeur generated by the symbiosis of the choruses and the orchestra is literally stunning. The beginning of Veni creator spiritus was probably too loud for --always beautiful-- auditorium of Théâtre du Chatelet (I KNOW that it should be played fortissimo but still...), but by the time we arrived to Adaggio I was olready whirled into the whole thing. I am not too big on Musica Sacra, which is maybe a reason more of why I particularly enjoyed the second part of this Symphony: Closing scene from Goethe's Faust was all fantastic.

I've rarely seen Châtelet so crowded with people like it was the case last night: people were sitting on the stairs, everywhere -- it felt special before, and special it was in the end. You may listen to the whole concert on this link. I don't know how they managed to capture that sound but you can give it a try.

In the end, Gatti went to every soloist to congratulate them all... and, as usual, looked visibly uncomfortable while receiving loud cheers from the crowd. He is a shy guy, so very passionate about music... and perhaps that's why a reason more why we like him so much.

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