Review: Manchester’s Mahler Eighth

Posted on May 10, 2010

Anna Picard in the Indepedent reviews Mahler’s Eighth at the Bridgewater Hall which saw the Hallé join forces with the BBC Philharmoninc to create the ‘Hallémonic’.

The Bridgewater Hall saw the debut of a new orchestra last weekend as players from the BBC Philharmonic and the Hallé joined forces under Mark Elder for Mahler’s Eighth Symphony. The Hallémonic had a sound of its own – more robust than the refined glow of the Hallé, more disciplined than the BBC Phil’s High Romantic swell. And though both orchestras have been on a parallel journey, as part of the same symphonic cycle, minute differences in timbre and attack, sometimes even from the same desk, lent this occasionally sublime, often preposterous work new edginess.

This was the only concert in Manchester’s Mahler Cycle not to open with a new commission. Instead, organist Olivier Latry delivered a Messaien-influenced improvisation on the hymn “Veni Creator Spiritus”. Not for the first time, I wondered if the anonymous monk who first transcribed the plainsong did better than Mahler, whose own setting borders on bombast.

Much more than in the Second and Third Symphonies, where poetry and prayer are an organic extension of the score, the orchestra’s role in the Eighth Symphony is that of accompanist, subsidiary to the bright chimings of the children’s voices (Hallé Youth Choir and Children’s Choir), the adult chorus (Hallé Choir and CBSO Chorus), and the eight soloists (including Sarah Connolly and Gerald Finley) whose euphoric cries describe Goethe’s glittering host of angels and saints in the second movement. If the fortissimi were dazzling, the suspenseful collective hush of “Alles Vergängliche …” was breathtaking. Above all, the attention to text was scrupulous.”

To read the review on the Independent website, click here.