City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Mahler: Song of the Earth, Queen's Theatre, Review

By Barbara Bryan - Posted on 30 January 2015

Show Details
Queen's Hall
Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Robin Ticciati - Conductor
Karen Cargill (Mezzo Soprano), Simon O'Neill (Tenor), Members of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra concert began with a Hadyn Symphony. When Haydn wrote his 70th symphony in D in 1779 it was at a time when he became free of the constraints of the Esterházy family contract and was able to compose and subsequently publish music for other outlets. Haydn felt ‘God had given him a joyful heart’ and this symphony was especially written to ‘mark the laying of the foundation stone for the new opera house at Eszterhaza after the previous one had burnt down.’

The first movement has a joyous, celebratory tone with an abundance of brass which emphasises the important occasion. Haydn also incorporates humour in his compositions and in the finale the strings play a titillating five note sequence which concludes the symphony on a humorous note. Robin Ticciati was the conductor and with his extremely expressive hands he guided the musicians to create the perfect mood for this piece.

Gustav Mahler’s ‘greatest symphony’ – Das Lied von der Erde was the next composition in the concert. Scored for two singers – the text is derived from seven poems taken from Bethge’s German translation of a volume of ancient Chinese poetry. The text poignantly deals with philosophical aspects of life and death and touched Mahler deeply at a time in his life when he had experienced great sorrow.

"With one stroke I have lost everything I have gained in terms of who I thought I was, and have to learn my first steps again like a newborn".

The work wasn’t performed until after Mahler’s death as he felt an audience would find the text too melancholic and it is indeed heartrending at times, but ultimately it is beautiful piece of music. And last night it was a pleasure hearing the magnificent voices of the tenor Simon O’Neill and mezzo soprano Karen Cargill who sang the verses alternately and both produced such an expressive interpretation of the texts, it truly was a moving performance.

As the Queens Hall is such an intimate space, there were however occasions when it was difficult to hear the singers above the orchestra as they were so close to the musicians but this intimate proximity did allow the audience to thoroughly engage in this dramatic composition. And a hallmark of Ticciati’s conducting style is that at the end of a concert he always allows the audience to absorb what they have heard by leaving a moment’s silence before appreciative clapping begins.

Friday 30 January, 7.30pm, Glasgow City Halls