Great Music in a Great Space Review - 500 Persons, Ninety Minutes

Gustave Mahler's 8th, his "Symphony of A Thousand", thus named at it's 1910 premiere in Munich for the simple reason that the combined choral and orchestral forces actually exceeded that numeral by 30 persons including the composer conducting on that Sept 12th occasion, took on the ambiance of Manhattan's largest Gothic Cathedral on the 24th and 25th of February, and the aural resulting effect was nothing less than astounding.

 



To say this work is massive is an understatement. In a letter to the renowned Dutch conductor, Willem Mengelberg, dated Aug.18th,of 1906, Mahler wrote,"I have just completed my eighth symphony. It is the largest work I have created hitherto. It is so unusual in form that I feel unable to write about it. Imagine for yourself that the universe began to ring out: no longer the voices of human beings, but those of the orbiting planets and the sun. I shall let you know more when I meet you next."

 



According to his protege,  this reviewer's favorite conductor,Bruno Walter who became Mahler's foremost exponent from 1911( the year of Mahler's death) to Walter's own in 1962,: "No other work of Mahler is so saturated with the spirit of fervent affirmation. It sounds from the wonders of the boisterous polyphony of the hymn (the anonymous 9th Century Latin text: "Veni, Creator Spiritus"-"Come, Spirit and Creator"), which the master-hand of Mahler had formed into the temple structure of a compact symphonic movement. It sounds alike from the words of (Goethe's)Faust( the last scene of Part II), and from the streams of music to which the feeling of deliverance had inspired Mahler."

 



The Oratorio Society of New York, The Manhattan School of Music Symphonic Chorus, The Manhattan School of Women's Chorus,The Cathedral Choristers of St. John the Divine,and The Manhattan School of Music Symphony Orchestra, along with soloists, Mezzo Soprano, Sara Murphy( Mulier Samaritana), Soprano, Rachel Rosales( Magna Peccatrix), Soprano, Bryn Holdsworth ( Una Poenitentium), a most heavenly Mater Gloriosa in the exalted exhibition of Soprano, Janet Todd at the performance I attended on the 24th, Tenor, John Tiranno ( Doctor Marianus),  Baritone, Jesse Blumberg, ( Pater Ecstaticus) brilliantly filling in for Tim Murray at the last minute, Bass, Adam Lau ( Pater Profundus), and Mezzo-Soprano, Lisa Barone( Maria Aegyptiaca), were all under the intensely focused and inspired direction of the Director of Cathedral Music and Organist at St. John the Divine, Kent Tritle.



Together, for some ninety minutes, these approximately 500 persons, for indeed the acoustics of the cathedral structure more than made up for the other half of the required thousand, transported the fortunate Mahler enthusiasts of our metropolis seated in the cathedral to this highly unique musical offering that in composition and execution aspired to reaching heaven's throne itself.  To this reviewer's ears, and the initial hush from the hundreds attending  happily outnumbering the musicians upon the symphony's completion, while allowing the last reverberations of the work's chord to linger in the mind and hearts of all who listened, they reached the composer's destination in no uncertain terms.

 

Conductor Kent Tritle


The spontaneous and thunderous standing ovation from these ecstatic Mahlerites merely confirmed that impression for the several minutes it endured. What a joyous gift from the Manhattan School of Music and it's partner The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, more than living up to it's label: "Great Music in a Great Space"! -Feb. 26th, 2016.

 

Information on the Manhattan School of Music

 

Photos: Anna Yatskevich

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