Monday, 21 September 2015

Alondra de la Parra Mahler Symphony

Alondra de la Parra conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra in Mahler's Symphony no 2. Alondra de la Parra?  A friend sent me a link to the concert on  Her name was a blank to me and her wiki stub isn't well written. But then another friend, whose taste is generally impeccable,  said "She's the real deal".

Definitely worth listening to. De la Parra isn't a genius, but why should she have to be? It's enough that she is good, and  comes over as a person with distinctive ideas,  who cares about the music and the way it should be expressed, which is a good thing. What I liked about this performance is that it is well thought through with a strong sense of what Boulez would have called "trajectory", integrated movement towards a purpose. The Urlicht is one of the critical stages in the journey. At first the mezzo sings of suffering but then of confrontation. An angel blocks the way. But the protagonist will defy even angels to reach his or her goal.
"Ach nein! Ich ließ mich nicht abweisen!
Ich bin von Gott und will wieder zu Gott!
And so, in this performance that sense of dogged determination shines through from the very first bars, produced with defiant panache.  Interestingly, that urgency marks the very last bars of the first movement, emphasizing the dramatic contrast of the silence of the Luftpause. I thought of the way a cardiac chart spikes upward then descends into flatline at the moment of death.

The processional nature of this First Movement was very clearly defined, each change of mood articulated with deliberation - "Mit durchaus ernstem und feierlichem Ausdruck". As anyone who has observed Catholic ceremonial will appreciate, religious processions have liturgical significance. The funeral march incorporates not only the last steps of the cortege but also a commemoration of  the person's life.  Hence the significance of detail throughout this performance - distant pastoral sounds suggesting happier memories and solo instruments played with clarity, suggesting the fragility of life. 

De la Parra is conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra, which we can hear a dozen times a year in London. Here, they sound different, as if they are listening to de la Parra for a different perspective. The soloists (Jennifer Johnston and Olivia Gorra) were fine and the choir is the City of Birmingham Chorus, directed by Simon Halsey. included the concert as part of a series about great concert halls of the world. Again, I don't know the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, whose acoustic seems to pick up every cough and dropped programme booklet. But I would certainly like to hear de la Parra again because she's interesting.  Listen more here where she conducts the first concert of the Verbier Festival Music Camp (youth orchestra, very green) in July this year. When this concert was recorded live last week, she looked very pregnant indeed - all the more respect to her! (the photo above must have been taken a while back). May the baby grow up to have a good ear.  ,

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