[Casa Magazine] Auferstehung (Resurrection)
By Dan Kepl
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Once in awhile during earth’s 26,000-year perambulation through the Milky Way galaxy, a select few humans are favored with special insights into the mystical concordance between belief and certainty. Gustav Mahler’s massive symphonic compositions, neglected for decades because of prejudice against his Jewish roots, were his personal apotheoses; a set of monumental pronouncements on the human condition, that languished unheard until Leonard Bernstein, another Jew, discovered and recorded them in the 50s and 60s. Mahler’s symphonies are now a de rigueur part of every major orchestra’s repertoire.
Maestro Nir Kabaretti conducted an augmented Santa Barbara Symphony, including ten horns, two harps, off stage ensembles of brass and percussion, four flutes, all doubling on piccolo, the Santa Barbara Choral Society, Quire of Voyces, and soloists Jennifer Black soprano, and Tamara Mumford mezzo-soprano, in an enthralling and profoundly moving performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, Resurrection at the Granada Theatre last weekend, that brought the packed house on Saturday night to its feet.
The standing ovation was not solely for the thrilling experience of being awash in so much sound for 80 minutes, Kabaretti’s thorough understanding and vigorous realization of the score made the five-movement-in-one-sitting experience fly by like a comet. Conducting from memory, Kabaretti was absolute monarch of these musical seas, making each cue, every pointed stare, and left hand embellishment count. The first three movements are gigantic tone poems, including the first, Totenfeier, which had stood alone as its own composition before being drafted as the opening movement of the Symphony No. 2.
The Santa Barbara Symphony, particularly in the playful and singing landler of the second movement and the stylistic string colorations and rowdy brass outbursts of the third movement Scherzo, responded to Kabaretti’s vigorous conducting with precise elan. But not until the fourth movement, Urlicht (Primal Light) from Mahler’s Das Knaben Wunderhorn was the metaphysical journey launched, mezzo-soprano Tamara Mumford’s richly resonant lower register mesmerizingly intoning “Man lies in deepest pain/Much would I rather be in heaven!”
From that solemn meditation, right through the fifth and last movement, another Scherzo, Mahler’s vision becomes otherwordly. Soprano Jennifer Black, in her first Mahler performance, intoned the mantra “Rise again, yes you will rise again,” and slowly, over a half hour of glorious music for chorus, the two vocal soloists and orchestra, the music did indeed, lift itself from earthly bondage, in a splendid baptism of sound.