Music review: The RSNO - Mahler Three

Conductor Peter Oundjian
Conductor Peter Oundjian
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Had Gustav Mahler been born 100 years later, he would surely have been in demand as a film composer, his genre-hopping Symphony No3 in particular serving as a wonderful calling card to any prospective employers. Rarely performed due to its epic personnel requirements (more than 200 musicians and singers graced the Usher Hall stage) and at just over 90 minutes one of the longest symphonies ever written, the work feels like six cinema visits in one.

The RSNO: Mahler Three ****

Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Mahler originally gave each movement a title, which he later revoked, preferring the music to speak for itself – and it certainly does. The first movement arrived like a Hollywood blockbuster, all excitable horns and timpani. The second, a sweet summer romance, was gently led by strings and woodwind. Movement three – once titled What the Animals in the Forest Tell me – featured a Disney-esque scampering with a dash of mild peril (and some beautiful off-stage trumpet).

The fourth heralded the arrival of mezzo-soprano Susan Platts, whose mournful vocals evoked the poignancy of a European arthouse score. Then, having sat patiently for so long, the RSNO Junior Chorus (girls only) and Ladies of the RSNO Chorus sprang into life for movement five – a kind of ecclesiastical thriller filled with glorious high notes and orchestral excitement.

That early romance from movement two blossomed into a deep yet sorrowful devotion in the sixth, a story told almost exclusively by the strings, who brought the orchestra’s 2017 season to a close in a wave of monumental beauty.