|Andris Nelsons outside the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra hall|
Andris Nelsons, new Kappellmeister of the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, in Mahler Symphony no 6, available here on MDR Kultur. A powerful performance , full of vitality and insight. This orchestra is one of the oldest in the world, and easily one of the best, with a highly individual sound. Also a highly individual ethos - this was Mendelssohn's orchestra. When the Nazis wanted his statue pulled down, the then Mayor, Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, defied the Nazis and paid the price. In 1989,Leipzig again stood for freedom, when the then Kapellmeister, Kurt Masur, led the orchestra in performances of Beethoven which helped topple the East German regime. You don't mess with Leipzig! In the years after the fall of the DDR the orchestra, like so many institutions at the time, underwent a period of readjustment. When Riccardo Chailly took over in 2005, Leipzig was revitalized, eager to take off on a new era. I remember their first keynote concert together (Mendelssohn) and the sense of energy that was generated.
This time round, only the evidence of an audio broadcast, but wow! a performance so invigorating and so electric that it could well signal even greater things to come. With Thielemann in Dresden and Bayreuth and Nelsons in Leipzig and Lucerne, things are looking up. I haven't got time to write the performance up in full, but suffice to say, this was an inspired approach, which captured the vitality in the piece, very much in line with what we know of Mahler the man and of the traverse of his symphonies as a whole. Sure it's "tragic", but without abundant life beforehand, would the loss thereof be so horrific? Muscular, energetic playing, wonderfully together - tho' listen to the percussion thumping like a heartbeat. Yet also the elusive, sensuous waltz, suggesting softer feelings and the haunted, ghost-like passages. Altogether an intelligent performance, full of intelligent insight, and musicianship of the highest order. The Leipzigers know what they want and do it perhaps better than anyone else. With Nelsons, they're a dream team. BTW, it's ridiculous to knock Nelsons for "doing too much". His schedule is no different to anyone else. Even in the past, conductors moved round, and some of the best weren't stuck to any one orchestra at all.