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Mezzo’s affecting vocalism lifts CSO’s Mahler

03.31.17
James Conlon
Chicago Classical Review

Disappointment that Bernard Haitink had cancelled this week’s performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was mitigated by the fact that James Conlon was available to take the helm for one of Gustav Mahler’s deepest and greatest works [Das Lied von der Erde]. As music director of the Ravinia Festival from 2005-2015, Conlon demonstrated his Mahler bona fides in a complete cycle of the Austrian composer’s symphonies with the resident Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a project that was a highlight of his North Shore tenure.

The performance was aided enormously by the glorious playing of the orchestra, which was rich and vibrant under Conlon’s idiomatic direction. The conductor’s bold textures consistently brought out Mahler’s dark coloring, not least the strange unsettling interludes between the stanzas of “Der Abschied.”

[In Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony] Conlon took a more Classical approach than one often hears, with lean textures and flowing tempos. Yet the taut, incisive playing ensured there was no lack of dramatic cut or intensity at the climaxes.
 
Read the rest of the review here