I managed to get the last ticket available for tonight’s concert of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under Mariss Jansons, performing Schostakowitsch’s 9th and Mahler’s 4th Symphonies.
This was an intelligent pairing. Both symphonies are somewhat lighter than the rest of the composers’ respective symphonic output. And although I have never seen it commented anywhere, I realized by listening to the two of them back-to-back this evening that Schostakowitsch (who anyway drew his symphonic influence from Mahler) must have had Mahler’s 4th in mind when he wrote his 9th, as it indeed sounded like a direct derivation.
The performance was fantastic. Jansons is rightly extremely popular in Vienna, and regularly visits not only to conduct the Philharmonic, but also to bring the two world-class orchestras he leads (he is simultaneously in charge of Munich’s Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, here tonight, and Amsterdam’s Concertgegouw, whom he conducted the last time I saw him in the Musikverein). Although the 9th is relatively light for Schostakowitsch, he managed to turn it into a fun showpiece. The orchestra responded to his emotional conducting with precision.
The Mahler 4th, after the intermission, came out a little more ragged – I wonder if the first horn and some of the others might not have opened the Schnapps a little early during the break. Still, Jansons can draw a bright reading out of anyone (probably helps that he started his career in the Soviet Union, and so must have gotten used to drunk musicians). The young Swedish soprano Miah Persson performed the solo adequately (actually, I looked her up after the concert and she is older than I am, but seems to have only begun her singing career recently). The concert master, as well as the principal flute, piccolo, clarinet, and bassoon, all deserved their several extra rounds each of applause.
I could see from my seat that the orchestra had sheet music for some Dvorak piece waiting on their stands (I could not read what piece it was, though), but despite the loud and very prolonged applause, we got no encores. After the orchestra eventually left the stage but the applause still would not stop, Jansons himself came back out for a solo bow – but a conductor solo does not an encore produce. I suppose he could have waved his baton at the audience and commanded us to sing something, but we left.