Saturday night, my friend Dave and I went to hear the Detroit Symphony Orchestra play Beethoven’s fourth symphony and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (Song of the Earth) downtown in Orchestra Hall. The playing was superb, as is usual for the DSO, this time under the baton of guest conductor Louis Langrée, who is the music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
The program noted that Beethoven’s 4th is a bit dwarfed by the Third (the Eroica) and the beyond-famous Fifth. But it’s still very good, and any other composer would make a fine reputation on a work such as this. The playing was very expressive throughout, and got a chuckle out of me at the end of the third movement, as was surely intended.
Das Lied is unusual in that it’s equal parts symphonic playing and singing, though this did not prevent Leonard Bernstein from calling it Mahler’s best symphony. The six songs were sung by baritone Russell Thomas and mezzo soprano Kelley O’Connor, alternatingly. Thomas got the best songs, I think, and he wowed me with his skill and fervor in his forceful and perhaps bitter songs. The refrain of the first song, “Dunkel ist das Leben, ist der Tod” (Dark is life, and is death) is likely to be my motto for 2016 at least. O’Connor also sang very well, with her songs being generally more gentle and mournful. Both vocalists were clearly heard over the orchestra, which isn’t always the case.
So it was a fine concert, and we got back to the house to have a pot roast that had been cooking away in the crock pot. Mmmmm.