Jewish World Review March 11, 2014 / 9 Adar II, 5774
Playing tonight: Mahler
By Paul Greenberg
Tuesday night's chamber music concert at the
Mahler must have been ecstatic, almost as happy as he was ambitious. The pattern for his career was set young: the eternal wunderkind alternately impressing his elders and outraging them. In
Mahler would be an exile musically long before he became one geographically, arriving in
Whatever spectaculars Mahler produced at the Met, he would remain his own man, a perfectionist who treated his musicians the way a lion tamer does the lions, unbending in his devotion to his own conception of the music, whether Wagner's or
Tonight's Mahler is his short but popular Piano Quartet in A minor, a product of his teenage years, and a calm preface not just to the chamber music at the
Tonight's quartet is composed of the always charming (when his musicianship isn't just plain fascinating)
The young Mahler's saving sense of reason shines through. In the middle of the busy world speeding by on the interstate just outside the
Then comes the avalanche. Jagged slabs of modernity fall on old
Once again I am proud of the South, for surely only a well behaved, ever polite audience of ladies and gentlemen would sit still, literally, for such abuse.
But all this is to overlook Part V of the suite, which has a frenetic appeal even to lovers of Mozartian order. It could be a film score for a Hitchcock murder mystery or the Coen Brothers' latest mix of the comic and homicidal. I'd love to hear it again. If I didn't have to abide Parts I, II, III, IV and VI of the six-part work.
The instructions that accompany Part V read Presto Delirando -- Tenebroso. According to my pidgin Italian, that means fast and furious, a raving delirium full of violent contrasts. Think of it as chiaroscuro with malice. If that's the way it was supposed to be played, it was. Thank you, musicians. Well and ominously played.
Then, after a much needed intermission to catch our breath, comes the headliner: Dvorak's Piano Trio No. 3 in F minor. I can feel my insides relax. Civilization will now return. I think -- but I've thought too soon.
Maybe, between Mahler and Dvorak, tonight was supposed to be Bohemian Night. A good idea. It would have made even better music -- if one of the musicians,
Let's just say that, in the never humble opinion of this rank amateur of a music critic -- very rank -- the sweetness of the piece would have come through whole if Ms. Roitman hadn't been so inexplicably heavy-handed. As if she were there not to complement the other players but to crush them -- and the audience -- into submission.
. . .
There is no piece of music, however sensitive, whose quality is not dependent on the sensitivities (or absence thereof) of those who play it. Miraculously, and there is indeed something miraculous about music written in one century coming alive in another, some of Dvorak's magic did manage to survive. What a pity more of it didn't.
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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer prize-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
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