Music review: LA Phil: Mahler 2, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

It takes enormous mental stamina and unswerving musical conviction to journey successfully through the spiritual transformation, technical minefield and often treacherous offload terrain of Mahler’s gloriously transformative Second Symphony, the “Resurrection”.

LA Philarmonic Orchestra at Edinburgh Festival
LA Philarmonic Orchestra at Edinburgh Festival

LA Phil: Mahler 2, Usher Hall, Edinburgh ***

Such were the hopes and expectations of a hushed Usher Hall as Gustavo Dudamel took centre stage to conduct the expansive forces of the LA Philharmonic, Edinburgh Festival Chorus and soloists Miah Persson and Anna Larsson in an expansive symphonic expedition that was to prove exhilarating, enlightening, inspired, wild and beautiful, but not without some wilderness moments en route.

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Dudamel instilled incisive purpose from the outset: snarling definition from the lower strings as they announced their angry presence; the powerful sweep of a long first movement harnessed by grim solidity, enlivened by agonising rhetoric and electrifying tension, but just occasionally weakened by solo lines wanting in finesse.

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It was beyond this point that concentration seemed to waver. As the transformative music of Ulricht emerged, Dudamel’s firm hold slackened. The opening of the Finale was thankfully the only major casualty. Here, an unexpected nervousness infected the orchestra: a mishit offstage trumpet entry, faulty intonation from onstage solos, and a general sense of unease in negotiating potential pitfalls.

When it all came right again, signalled by the magically hushed “a cappella” entrance of the Festival Chorus and the golden purity of soprano Miah Persson, a rediscovered zeal took this performance to its ecstatic conclusion.