A Mahler under control

Marin Alsop
The Washington Post

The performance of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony that Marin Alsop conducted with the Baltimore Symphony at Strathmore Hall on Thursday was a far cry from the kind of Mahler her celebrated mentor, Leonard Bernstein, used to conduct.

Bernstein’s uncompromising Mahler was all about heat and color and incident and heart-on-the-sleeve angst. Dynamics could rocket from unearthly quiet to heaven-storming volume, and tempos were expressively elastic.

Alsop is a far more controlled Mahler interpreter. That’s not to say she was unengaged Thursday. The opening movement’s pastoral episode had diaphanous, almost Mendelssohnian charm. The sardonic laughter built into the wind writing in the Scherzo was loud and clear. And Alsop generated a fair head of steam during the second half of the Finale.

But in this most restless and despairing symphony of the Mahler cycle, Alsop chose cogency over trenchancy much of the time. Limning the work’s structure in long, lucid paragraphs, she led a reading of consistent tempos and subtly calibrated internal balan­ces, allowing dramatic events to organically unfold.

Read the full review.