Mahler’s Eighth Symphony is both a glorious visual spectacle and music to the ears. Not one inch of space was left unfilled on the Usher Hall stage for Sunday’s Festival finale, conducted by Daniel Harding. What a sight! What a sound!
Usher Hall, Edinburgh *****
efore Harding, the sprawling ranks of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra; behind them the myriad black shirts of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus; in between, a sea of red-clad youth marking the territory of the NYCoS Girls Choir; and let’s not forget the eight soloists, or the additional ranks of brass who squeezed into the rear galleries, giving ecstatic fullness to the climaxes of both parts of this so-called Symphony of a Thousand.
We’ve heard this work many times at the International Festival, and in many different ways. This one was utterly refreshing, sung with gut-felt emotion and electrifying conviction, Harding’s orchestra eliciting magically unnerving moments from the score.
But besides this performance’s unfaltering momentum and gripping cohesion, there was something more: a challenging rawness, a sense of danger and unease, in the way Harding probed the innermost conflicting details.
Among a fine team of soloists, soprano Tamara Wilson shone magnificently. And what a way for outgoing EIF chorus master Christopher Bell to sign off.