Mahler 2 Reviews

It’s good to see how much people enjoyed the San Francisco Symphony performances of Mahler’s 2nd last weekend, especially with all the raves about the chorus as well as the orchestra. Several people at SF MusicTech came up to me after our Digital Sheet Music panel to say how much they enjoyed the concerts, including Ralph Peer, the Chair and CEO of peermusic.

Joshua Kosman at the San Francisco Chronicle wrote “There aren’t many musical sure bets these days as sure as a Mahler symphony from Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony. But even by those high standards, Saturday’s performance of the Second Symphony in Davies Symphony Hall was a thriller… When the symphony turned vocal in the two last movements, the heroes of the evening were the members of Ragnar Bohlin’s Symphony Chorus, singing with glorious vitality and precision.”

Lisa Hirsch at San Francisco Classical Voice wrote “The real vocal star was Ragnar Bohlin’s magnificent Symphony Chorus, which sang with power, transparency, and a marvelous responsiveness to the text.” In her blog she added “I did not quite figure out how to say that I was on the verge of tears from the beginning of ‘Urlicht’ until the final release. How’d they do it???”

Janos Gereben at San Francisco Classical Voice offered some particularly kind words:

Ragnar Bohlin’s San Francisco Symphony Chorus provided a blessing for Davies Symphony Hall audiences last weekend in performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, conducted brilliantly by Michael Tilson Thomas — and put a kind of whammy on itself by establishing the highest standard against which all future performances will be evaluated.

I can just hear murmurs from coming months and years: “This was fine, but do you remember the sound in the 2011 ‘Resurrection’? You should have been there.”

It’s impossible to put in words the thrill of 132 singers “speaking” with one voice, a voice coming from far and yet as if from deep inside the listener.

There’s certainly a lot to be said for coming back to Mahler 2 after only a year away. Nearly everyone in the orchestra and chorus had performed it with MTT last season, so those performances were a starting point for reaching for something even better. Last year’s Mahler 2 was my first concert set with the chorus and the experience was a bit overwhelming. This year I had a year’s worth of ensemble listening behind me and much better understanding of what MTT and Ragnar want in the chorus and in this piece. It sure felt from the stage like the chorus and orchestra’s performance was on a new level, but it’s great to hear so much from the audience side that agreed with that assessment.

Now onto the Spring Choral concert on Sunday the 22nd, followed by Beethoven’s Missa solemnis at the end of June!

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