24th January 2017
Under Bychkov’s baton, the musicians were perfectly relaxed. Perfect, not in the sense of an absence of errors demanded by the live situation and this legend of legendary orchestras, but perfect because the Orchestra breathed as one in Brahms’ musical language, claiming the North German as if one of their own. You only need to have heard the Viennese to understand the extent to which they understood the idiom.
This evening was great because Mahler’s artistry took the music to its very limits. At the beginning, at least 16 of the first violins played what sounded like nothing but quivering air – almost inaudibly quiet and inaudibly high. Then gradually, the composer seemed to pluck remembered images from the air: here the bird-like call of the clarinet, and there the distant rumble of thunder from the timpani, and entwined them in the seemingly carefree melody from “Liedern eines fahrenden Gesellen”. Ultimately driving the work forward at full throttle unabated until it reached its conclusion and climax.
The audience was remarkably attentive. In the moments of introspection, when it felt as if the music’s desolation moved the ground beneath Mahler’s feet, the silence was palpable.