by Daniel Hathaway
How much difference does a change of conductors make? Quite a lot, when you have an ensemble as cooperative and malleable as The Cleveland Orchestra, and when a big, sprawly work like Mahler’s seventh symphony is involved.
Last weekend, New York Philharmonic music director Alan Gilbert returned to Severance Hall, where he had served as conducting assistant and assistant conductor from 1994-1997, to fill in for the ailing French maestro Pierre Boulez and to provide a fascinating contrast between what one conductor hypothetically might have done and what another one actually did.
A Boulez interpretation of Mahler 7 — purely speculative, of course — would probably have subjected the work to a thorough and rigorous formal analysis, would likely have mined the score for inner details and placed them importantly in the context of larger structures, and almost certainly would have observed every tempo change, rhythmic subtlety and dynamic level Mahler obsessively prescribed. [Read more…]