Last night’s TSO concert was billed as a Tribute to Maureen Forrester with Ben Heppner MCing. Inevitably the main even was Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde but first there was a sesquie and the premiere of a new piece; L’Aube, for mezzo and orchestra by Howard Shore (he of Lord of the Rings etc). This was a setting of five poems by Elizabeth Cotnoir. It was retro, lush, tonal and, in a sense, well crafted but with very little variation between the movements, all of which were very slow. Susan Platts rich mezzo added to the rather soporific effect. Call me an unreformed modernist if you like but I’m really not sure what a piece like this adds to the symphonic repertoire.
In contrast the opening of the Mahler sounded brash, abrasive and, yes, modern. It also sounded a bit chaotic in the sense that the dynamics between the different musical strands and sections of the orchestra didn’t seem particularly well defined. I’ve had this issue with Oundjian’s Mahler at Roy Thomson before and I really don’t know whether it’s because the acoustics of the hall reduce the orchestral textures to mush or because the grasp of the deep structure of the music is lacking. I guess I would have to hear, say, Simon Rattle, conduct here to know. As the orchestration thinned out in the later movements this became much less of a problem and there was some fine singing from both Michael Schade and Susan Platts. Nice work from the orchestra principals too, all leading up to a pretty satisfying version of the Abschied. So a bit of a mixed bag really.
The program, minus the sesquie, is repeated tonight at 7.30pm.
Photo credit: Jag Gundu.