...on Monday I night got taken to Carnegie Hall by honorary-ex-wife Susan, to hear James Conlon conduct the Juilliard Orchestra in a program of extravagantly proportioned symphonic works.
Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony followed intermission, and I was very impressed by the passionate rendering of the first two movements,
I Trauermarsch and II Stürmisch Bewegt. Very exciting stuff. And then movement III Scherzo fell flat on its Allerwertesten, which I thought was the conductor’s fault more than it was the orchestra’s... it just didn’t swing, and a Ländler’s got to ought to swing... Movement IV Adagietto was pristinely beautiful, and it was perhaps just an illusion from sitting in the orchestra section of Carnegie that made the harps sound a little too loud... Personal triumph for me was that I didn’t think of Dirk Bogarde dying on the beach until after I was out of the concert... Movement V Rondo got run a bit ragged by a band that was slightly beat, although it remained stirring and proud.
All in all I found Conlon at the bat to feel a bit foursquare, but I will take any opportunity to hear this music. It remains complex and challenging to players and interpreters at one hundred years of age, reveals its depths in no hurry over the decades I’ve had it in my life, and reminds one that the listener has responsibilities as well.