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Tonhalle: Mahler 5, Bansal, Haydn

Mahler 5

Mahler 5

Symphony No.45 F sharp minor by Joseph Haydn
Green Piece No.8 by Juhi Bansal
Symphony No.5 by Gustav Mahler
Düsseldorfer Symphoniker, conducted by Adam Fischer

Tonhalle, 3rd Tier, Row 10, Seat 6

(This post also appears, in slightly different form, at my Instagram account betweendrafts.)

Haydn wrote his 45th symphony in F sharp minor, a pretty outlandish key at the time, and with developments especially in the second movement that are ahead of its time. Don’t let “No.45” fool you—it’s Haydn’s middle period! (Wiener Klassik composers wrote way too much fluff, sez I, the Wiener Klassik grump.) At its original performance, Haydn’s patron Nikolaus I didn’t let the musicians return home from his summer palace, so Haydn composed a fifth (protest) movement where the musicians leave one by one until only the conductor and concertmaster are left to play the final bars. When this fifth attacca movement starts out, in A major, you’d think, meh, just some Wiener Klassik stock footage arc-welded on top—but then, holy shit, it becomes good and very moving. So Haydn’s 45th symphony is both badass and a great piece of music, highly recommended.

The commissioned Green Piece No.8 by Juhi Bansal (a composer I like) was forceful, cinematic, 100% tonal, and very enjoyable.

Now, Mahler’s 5th. At first, you’d be excused to think Mahler must’ve had a really bad day, but no! His life had just improved massively, and all turns out fine in his 5th eventually. Which doesn’t mean it’s an easy piece, far from it; it needs intense multiple listening to. Adam Fischer conducted from memory, an admirable feat, but at times colored the dynamics (and sometimes tempi) with an unmistakable Wagnerian touch, which isn’t quite to my taste. But it was a very good performance, some minute imprecisions here and there notwithstanding, that I fully enjoyed. During the well-earned applause, Fischer shook hands with all who deserved it—trumpet, horn, bass, etc.—yet not with his concertmaster, which was odd.

All this was preceded by a Green Monday talk with Lea Brückner and Ilona Steffen from NABU which offered a wild tangential ride along first and second hand anecdotes and ended with Brückner torpedoing Steffen’s core message (“in my grandparents’ time one brand of soap was enough” vs. “try a greater diversity of apples”), all in prose suitable for first-graders rather than a Mahler audience. (Then again, large parts of the audience were what locals disrespectfully call “Abopublikum,” so who knows.)

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