Quick note for posterity: Lorin Maazel’s Mahler 6 at the RFH last Tuesday. We had dead centre choir seats, second row back. Of course, this puts you on the wrong end of the orchestra, and in Mahler, you certainly notice it. Being on the wrong end of a Mahler symphony is a loud and eventful business.
Whether it was that, or whether it was indeed Maazel’s interpretation, I have to say that this performance of the enormous Sixth symphony rather outstayed its welcome. I became sorely tempted to clamber over my fellow listeners and wrestle the gigantic mallet from the percussionist and deal the third hammer-blow of fate myself. Watching Maazel was interesting: his technique seemed to be that of the rest of us when we conduct our stereos. His cueing of each instrumental entry somehow reinforced the feeling of a succession of insistent incidents, rather than a fluid whole. The terror of the final movement was lost in the process, or certainly I was lost anyway. But, as I say, I can’t really tell if that was the seating position or the conducting… The sound of the Philharmonia was as refulgent as ever, some rather wayward trumpeting notwithstanding.
The concert was delayed while the violins shuffled seats so that someone could be suddenly promoted to concertmaster to account for the fact that the orchestra’s leader was stuck on the Jubilee line. Rather oddly, we waited at the end of the first movement whilst he dashed on and everyone rearranged themselves. Latecomers will not be admitted until a suitable break in the performance, I guess… The incident – the details of which were, entirely appropriately, announced to the audience – does bode ill for the London Olympic & Paralympic Games.