Choppy Mahler and an erratic Jubilee Line

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.

Mahler at Waterloo

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.


  1. At last someone has told the truth about this performance – all the other “professional” reviews have lauded it to the skies. I thought it was dreadful – far, far too slow and I suspect the orchestra did not like it either. Ponderous in the extreme. For me, the 6th is about brashness, almost ugliness, but I have no idea what Maazel was trying to achieve, other than to stay the course with an orchestra which was plainly spooked by something with some downright shoddy playing especially at the beginning – they were probably dreading having to sit there for an extended time playing music at half the speed it was intended to be played at.

    Having said which, Maazel’s performances of the others in this series so far (1st, 2nd and 4th) have been superb.


    1. Thanks! Well, I couldn’t tell if I was tired, or was sitting in the wrong place, or what, so useful to have your thoughts. Fingers crossed for the 8th, in my case…

  2. I’m just back from the 5th tonight, which was glorious and noisy but with tenderness at all the right points. I think the 6th was just an aberration – I hope anyway. For his age, I don’t understand where Maazel gets his energy from. Maybe he has a picture in the attic somewhere …

    Don’t know the 8th.


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