MAHLER DES KNABEN WUNDERHORN/ADAGIO FROM SYMPHONY NO. 10
Hinting at depths of sorrow and memories of childhood – Pierre Boulez’ Mahler
In 2010, the musical world celebrated not only the 150th anniversary of Gustav Mahler’s birthday, but also the 85th birthday of his fellow conductor and composer Pierre Boulez. And since 2010 also marked Boulez’ 45th year of fruitful collaboration with the Cleveland Orchestra, he chose to conduct a special Mahler-only anniversary concert with this orchestra at Severance Hall. Next to the Adagio from the unfinished Symphony No. 10, he programmed Twelve Songs from “Des Knaben Wunderhorn” with the soloists Magdalena Kožená and Christian Gerhaher.
The concert opens with Boulez crafting an emotionally gripping interpretation of the Adagio with only the slightest gestures, as if merely hinting at the depths of sorrow and resignation that are being expressed by the orchestra. The musicians’ concentration is palpable, and their account of Mahler’s last score is nothing less than mesmerizing.
The songs from “Des Knaben Wunderhorn,” based on texts from a collection of German folk poetry, are all highly distinctive works whose characters range from naïve to worldly, ironic to macabre, pastoral to military. Particularly popular are the military effects in the songs “Revelge” and “Der Tamboursg’sell.” Both mezzo Magdalena Kožená and baritone Christian Gerhaher are sought-after singers who appear in operas and concerts on the world’s leading stages. Summing up both the concert and the conducting of Pierre Boulez, the Cleveland Plain Dealer exclaimed: “Pure Bliss … an apt description of his [Boulez’] performance with the Cleveland Orchestra.”