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Boston Phil soulfully launches '04

Thursday night's concert by Benjamin Zander and his Boston Philharmonic marked a beginning and an end. The concert, at Sanders Theatre, began the orchestra's 26th season. It also served as a postscript to last year's all-Mahler season. Zander and company play their Mahler with religious fervor, and did so once again on this occasion. The program included the compelling Boston premiere of a 1994 completion by Remo Mazzetti of the Adagio from Mahler's (unfinished) Symphony No. 10 and a near-perfect performance of The Song of the Earth featuring mezzo Gigi Mitchell-Velasco and tenor Thomas Young. In the stage remarks that are a staple of the Boston Phil's Thursday night concerts, Zander argued in favor of the Remo Mazzetti completion. But the proof is in the playing, and these musicians delivered this score with searing intensity. Zander described Song of the Earth as Mahler's most personal score. Certainly it's one of his most immediately accessible, and a successful performance of this symphony in song about death can make for a profoundly spiritual and emotional experience. It certainly did here. With his sturdy-yet-honeyed lyric tenor, Young dove thrillingly into the part's treacherous waters. In her most extroverted song, Mitchell-Velasco seemed like someone who insists she's having a great time at a party when she's not. Yet in more reflective parts, such as the concluding, half-hour "Farewell", her deeply felt delivery took us, like her character, straight to heaven.

Boston Philharmonic at Sanders Theatre, Cambridge, Thursday; repeats tonight at Jordan Hall, Boston, and tomorrow at Sanders.

2004 Boston Herald

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