Semyon Bychkov heading to NYC and DC with Glanert and Mahler

Perhaps it
was their intermediate break, but the Mahler performance tonight felt a bit
lackluster. It was Composer-in-Residence Detlev Glanert’s thrilling
Theatrum Bestiarium that left me most impressed as I biked home that

My expectations for Bychkov’s Mahler debut were quite high, after I
witnessed his growing sterling synergy with the RCO in previous seasons with
Strauss’s Eine Alpensinfonie and Ein Heldenleben. Each
exuberant and sweeping me off my feet. Tonight he missed that cohesion and
brilliance. Bychkov’s reached a graceful, but demure ambience. More nobly
restrained than fiery; chivalrous rather than heated. Overall each segment was
decent in musical beauty, but never moving.

A highlight included Omar Tomasoni’s trumpet solos. In the opening
Trauermarsch he served up moments of brilliance with a devoted air,
producing some sour shrills. He ruled the first movement and later returned
with more of his distinct curvy phrasing with his intensity consistently
growing in verve and resonance. Such stamina!

Mahler’s Fifth contains arguably his most Romantic music in the
Adagietto. Mengelberg was an ambassador for Mahler’s work, who
conducted this symphony in Amsterdam in 1906. This fourth movement is a love
letter to his wife Alma, as she wrote to the Titan Mengelberg about a poem on
longing included by her husband.

The Adagietto has enormous power to disarm through the dreamy harp
and lush strings. With all its decency, Bychkov’s influence did not reach
emotive depth; his conducting expressive, authentically passionate without
overreacted theatricality. His result made for more of a soothing experience,
rather than capturing Mahler’s swooning Romance.

Before the intermission, I was surprised by my enjoyment of Detlev
Glanert’s Theatrum Bestiarum. Glanert suggests this work as a
precursor to his opera Caligula. I felt pleasantly uprooted by its
violent momentum. This is the third time the RCO scheduled this work. I grow
more fond of it with every performance.

“In Theatrum bestiarum I visit a zoo of human beings,”
Glanert declared. At many moments I could envision his concept. This
“dark and wild series of “Songs and Dances for Large
Orchestra”, in which the audience looks in upon the dissection of man as
beast,? opens with psychological horror through incisive strings burning with
fire. Glanert dedicated this work to Shostakovich, and his Eleventh Symphony
seems of particular influence. It also reminded me of the violence of Bernard
Herrmann’s Psycho score.

As a guest performer visiting, Erwin Wiersinga mastered the
Concertgebouw’s legendary Maarschalkerweerd Organ. His thunderous volume
just as impressive as the subtleties of the calmer passages.

The twenty-two minute piece premiered in 2005. Glanert said his
compositional inspiration comes from the “simple and dramatic sense of
Mahler’s structure.” This contrasts is evident in the emotional
drama: from powerful fortissimos to jazzy pianissimo phrases, while the winds
section lands on cushioning strings. Bychkov conducted with strict tempi,
highly focused yet still more expressive in sound than in Mahler later.

It’s encouraging to hear the RCO programming this work more
frequently, as it becomes part of its repertoire. Combining it with Mahler
provides an enriching contrast for both works. After the much lauded world
premiere of his Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch earlier this month, this
programming proved yet another fruitful collaboration between the RCO and its
Composer-in-Residence Detlev Glanert.

The folks in NYC and DC will be in for a treat when the Amsterdam entourage
performs across the Atlantic.

David Pinedo

image_description=Semyon Bychkov [Photo by Renske Vrolijk]
product_title=Semyon Bychkov heading to NYC and DC with Glanert and Mahler
product_by=A review by David Pinedo
product_id=Above: Semyon Bychkov [Photo by Renske Vrolijk]