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News: Conductor

A 5 star review from Rotterdam

Posted: 2013-07-02 12:30:00

European Newspaper of the Year

***** (5 stars)

When - at the end of Mahlers’ Second Symphony – a lonely horn sounds from outside the concert hall and you hear an echo from the far other side of the building, you know the resurrection is close. You know the light source at the end of the bizarre symphonic tunnel is becoming visible. You feel it in all your fibers, specifically if the conductor is Benjamin Zander (74). The British cult-conductor, who causes a commotion after every new Mahler-experience from his hand, is touring the Netherlands with the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, that he founded last year – it’s their first international tour. And there they were Tuesday night in the Doelen in Rotterdam, the 120 young and fabulous musicians – ranging from 13 to 21 years old- motivated to the bone to, after this impressive call of the horn, make something special out of the approaching ‘Auferstehung. And boy o boy they did that amazingly well.
It was impressive to see how thorough these young people make their music, how well they understand the underlying meaning of this piece and Mahler’s intentions. It’s not strange since everybody is explicitly invited to – after the rehearsals- think and engage in a dialogue with Zander about every note and the meaning behind it.
Tonight is the highlight for the musicians and for Zander himself (who had a Dutch mother) in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, where the love for Mahler has long been cherished. The concerts are part of an international Choir Biennale of Haarlem. They provided the choir of amateur and semiprofessional singers who managed to master the finale of Mahler’s second in two months. From the hesitating whispering at the start to the convincing sound explosion at the end, this was a resurrection not to be forgotten. It hit home as a manner of speech.
The applause after the roaring final chord in a mostly filled Doelen was grandiose and lengthy. And completely deserved.
Zander is a great and clear conductor. After the impressive first part, he managed to hold the tension and the musicians stayed in their playing posture for at least half a minute. When after that people almost started to applaud, Zander stopped it with his hands. They are magical hands which spread majestically to metaphorically catch the first part of the final chord.
In the second part, Zander and his musicians managed to play magnificently with the game of rubato (stealing time), and how tender and unctuous did the cello section play the countermelody. It was a unique night, led by a truly unique person. The fact that Zander had mezzosoprano Naef on his side for the ‘Urlicht’ made this amazing concert complete.

Written by: Peter van der Lint


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