Murai, Peabody bring Mahler to life

April 07, 1997|By David Donovan | David Donovan,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Gustav Mahler's prophetic "my time will come" was given a resounding ring of truth yesterday afternoon at the Meyerhoff with a white-hot performance of his massive "Resurrection" Symphony. The 80-minute behemoth was almost perfectly realized by conductor Hajime Teri Murai and the 260 performers assembled to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Peabody Orchestra.

The "Resurrection" Symphony gave Mahler his first public triumph as a composer. This symphony took six years to create, from the composition of the opening movement, a tone poem titled "Totenfeier," to its five-movement final version with its massive choral finale. Mahler conducted the first complete performance, which he financed himself, on Dec. 13, 1894. Bruno Walter, the great conductor and student of Mahler, insisted that this performance marked the real start of Mahler's career as a composer.

Conductor Hajime Teri Murai deserves most of the credit for the resounding success of the afternoon. His interpretation of the work was straightforward but true to the letter of the score. The very challenging off-stage music of the final movement teetered xTC but did not collapse, much to the credit of maestro Murai's patient direction. He was always there for his players and got out of the way to let his young orchestra relish this score.

The real stars of the afternoon were the members of the Peabody Orchestra. Each section made the most of its opportunity to shine.

The terrifying cello and bass passages that open the first movement were a little too straightforward, but they were rock solid. Particularly strong were the solo oboe efforts of Fatma Daglar and the principal horn contributions of Beth Graham. Mahler is especially demanding of percussionists, and the orchestra's section responded to his musical demands with precision and fire.

The combined choirs of Peabody and Morgan State were well-coached, and their diction was excellent, but there were a few problems. First, their opening entrance was entirely too loud. Mahler asked for a triple pianissimo, and what was delivered was a massive mezzo-forte. They also seemed to overwhelm the vocal soloists, upsetting the balance of the composer's perfectly planned score.

Soprano Phylis Bryn-Julson and mezzo-soprano Marianna Busching were just not up to the inspiration of the orchestra and chorus. Conductor Murai did miracles keeping the orchestra from overwhelming them, but his restraint made their solo performances seem tame compared with the magnificent efforts of the orchestra.

Pub Date: 4/07/97

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