Mahler's mind-blowing majesty at CBSO

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The mind-blowing majesty of Mahler's Resurrection Symphony left a capacity audience spellbound at Birmingham's Symphony Hall

CBSO: Mahler's Symphony Number Two

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Review by Andy Richardson

The Great German composer Mahler intended that his Symphony Number Two be a monument to the beauty of afterlife and resurrection. The masterwork, which became the most popular and successful of his life, was written for a vast orchestra and offstage ensemble of brass and percussion, in addition to a choir.

With great aplomb, it was performed by the CBSO at Birmingham's Symphony Hall under the baton of Kazushi Ono. Ono conducted the piece with unswerving grace, displaying a rare intelligence and insight into the work.

His leadership was all the more remarkable given that he only stood in to conduct at the last minute, following an illness to Sakari Oramo, that rendered the former CBSO principal unable to take up his duties.

The symphony began in funereal style with a march reminiscent of a funeral. At its conclusion, Ono took to a chair to observe the gap of five minutes that Mahler had called for prior to the second movement.

The second movement, the Andante Moderato, was simple, dark and delicate, making way for the more-despairing third movement, the scherzo. The voices of soprano Jane Irwin and mezzo Renata Pokupic came to the fore in the fourth movement, though they were joined by a full chorous in the dramatic fifth.

That finale, featuring a section that Mahler referred to as 'the march of the dead' was stunning. An explosion of drums, brass and strings was underpinned by the dramatic massed voices of a choir in full song. By the end of the piece, the audience had felt the full force of Mahler's improbably ambitious creative vision.

The CBSO showed their virtuosity and Ono proved himself a true master. It made for a spectacular evening's entertainment.

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