Adelaide Festival Theatre, 23 July 2016
The ASO, under the great Simone Young, performed a brilliant version of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, the conductor superbly engaged, dominant, physical; synthesizing and wrangling the musicians. The highlight was her cajoling of the cellos in the sonorous solos, extending their moment and heightening the gothic mood of the piece.
It made one yearn for the composer’s increased application. If only he had resisted the lure of the pub, and not stayed in his brother’s filthy apartment, he might have finished the Symphony! (And damn you, syphilis!)
After the break, we were treated to an intense and fiery 6th Symphony by Mahler. [TVC prefers the 5th, which is much more cohesive – think Death in Venice, which Visconti based on Mahler (in Mann’s novella Aschenbach was a writer)]. The 6th has a ‘kitchen sink’ quality to it, frankly; there’s a touch of Stalag 17, Gigi and some martial music, plus a dash of Hitchcock for good measure. This wildly uneven work is suggestive of a man ‘who lived on his nerves.’ And it doesn’t seem to know how to conclude, offering us some five specious climaxes.
Yet Young and the ASO gave us the piece in as good a light as possible. The conductor was in complete command; so much so that she seems a little scary. Then again, all great artists are a little scary.