Simon Rattle conducts Mahler at Verizon Hall

Although retired since 2014, I still relish opportunities to teach, write, and share opinions.
Legendary conductor Sir Simon Rattle conducted the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra playing Mahler’s 6th Symphony at Verizon Hall on Wednesday, May 8, 2024.
It was absolutely spectacular. 
Mahler Symphony No. 6 in A minor 
 I. Allegro energico, ma non troppo 
 II. Andante moderato 
 III. Scherzo: Wuchtig 
 IV. Finale: Allegro moderato
Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) was one of the great composers. He wrote his Symphony No. 6 in 1904. To put him into historical context, “Framing the Program” in Playbill reminded us that Puccini had written Madame Butterfly, Chekhov wrote The Cherry Orchard, and that work had begun on the Panama Canal, all in 1904.
The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra is in the midst of a grand tour which will include Verizon Hall and Carnegie Hall in New York. They are celebrating the fact that Simon Rattle just recently became their Chief Conductor. Their recording of Mahler’s 6th has become an early sensation, so it is wonderful that the Philadelphia Orchestra and Ensemble Arts have sponsored their appearance in Philadelphia. 
The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra performed magnificently, with fire, sensuality, and brilliant musicianship throughout. They truly love working with their new Conductor. 
Visual highlights of the evening included three percussionists moving stealthily together to sound their three sets of cymbals with flair, and that fascinating giant hammer, part of the lush sonic landscape of the symphony. Visually, it was gigantic, as if Popeye the Sailor was going to strike the plate at a carnival game with it, and hitting it so strongly that in a cartoon world, the bell would fly off into space. Its appearance surprised many as it was larger than the percussionist. As the perspicacious program notes by Christopher H. Gibbs informed us, Mahler was naturally very concerned as to how the hammer blows would sound. He had instructed that the blows should sound “short, mighty, but dull in resonance, with a non-metallic character, like the stroke of an axe.” They most definitely were. The notes continue to inform us that Mahler composed Symphony No. 6 from 1903 to 1905. 
If you have never been to Verizon Hall, you must visit it and experience the thrill of live music for yourself. Verizon Hall is also quite beautiful.
The Philadelphia Orchestra continues its current season. Yevgeny Kissin is also scheduled to make a rare Philadelphia appearance. For information about these concerts, and next season’s offerings, visit …

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