Monday, 3 November 2014

Daniel Harding's life-affirming Mahler 6 (video)

From BR Klassik, a concert given earlier this year in Munich. Watch here. Daniel Harding conducts the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Henry Purcell Funeral Music for Queen Mary and Mahler Symphonie no 6. What I love about this performance is its vivacity. This wasn't a "special occasion" concert, just part of theBRSO's normal series, yet the orchestra are playing their souls out, taking risks, engaging with the music. Harding has done this programme before (eg in Berlin) because it works surprisingly well. Purcell was writing for a formal State funeral, yet his music seems more a celebration of life than a meditation on death. This Queen Mary and her husband William represented an important stage in the re-establishment of the British monarchy. Mahler's Symphony no 6 is often associated with death too, but is it necessarily gloomy? So many moments that suggest a passionate love of life, which makes the finality of death so painful.  The "Alpine" moments are so beautiful that taking leave of them feels almost physically painful. Harding's vigorous interpretation is very perceptive, and in line with how we now understand Mahler's personality. Although the BRSO is not a period instrument orchestra, its Purcell sounds right because Harding approaches the music with the energetic spirit of the baroque. "Historically informed" means exactly that, not some notion of what history "should" be like,  but an appreciation that human beings, in whatever era they might be, tend to embrace not death but life. Please read my other posts on Mahler 6, on mountains and Mahler usw.

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