Review Prom 45, Mahler’s Third Symphony, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall by James Ellis

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Back for the Proms and it looks like a fascinating year. There’s been some fine music making on the telly, radio and in person for people to choose. Finally making it back, I ventured to a firm favourite of mine.

Mahler’s Third Symphony is a chunky wombat of a piece, feature length at 95 minutes and requires quite a large orchestra. For me it’s one of his best out of his cannon. Whilst the BBC Symphony here, I felt the pathos, though it lacked some Germanic rawness to it. Conductor Sakari Oramo shooed away invisible flies, other times waded in the senseless of the music. He often franticly looked about the orchestra, yet he still managed to make the piece feel longer still. Mezzo Jenny Carlstedt has a fleeting solo, fraught with typical angst, oily and just right. She stayed on stage after her moment, openly weeping for the applause. The ladies of the BBC Symphony Chorus and Trinity Boys Choir had fine harmonies, both equally on point for the particular fibre added into the symphony around an hour in.

Many moments to savour, the sweet pathos of the offstage bugelhorn, the touching trombone solo, the bells and doubled timpani sets. The universe never leaves Mahler’s music and here it is most evident. The strident leaps, the painful doldrums and agonising irony all feature. The use of popular music of his day and Alpine folk songs also stand out. You have to take the good with the bad when it comes to Mahler. It’s usually very rewarding. Maybe I was too tired to really drink in this heady brew after a day of travelling.

Though, I still feel it needs more of a kick to it, gusto even. Oramo maintains the texture through a decent pace. The final movement which js one of the finest things Mahler created, was good but just not incredible. The solemn strings, the trumpets reaching that high notes, the soaring medley line and more. The grandiose end sees the two timpani players effectively play out as the other percussionists get a well earned rest. The universe is a true, beautiful thing in that moment and we need to cherish that. 

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