Review: Mahler’s Third: a towering GSO achievement

Greenville NewsFull Review

By Ann Hicks: May 9, 2016

On Saturday evening, a bold, brassy, triple forte “Hymn to Nature” shattered the walls at the Peace Concert Hall where Maestro Edward Tchivzhel and the Greenville Symphony Orchestra triumphed from start to finish with Austrian composer Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 3, composed in the late 1890s during two successive summers.

This must be said: The Maestro ruled. I have never seen him more in command and more fiercely engaged — in my memory of covering him for 11-years — as I witnessed that evening. No wonder so much energy and vitality flowed from the orchestra to engulf the audience; it made for an active experience. On occasions, I saw people lean forward and into the music as if they could not get enough.

Mahler, affectionately referred to the Third, his longest composition, as his “glorious monster.” A monster, fat with contradictions that tells a raucous-to-lyrical polyphonic tale of cosmic creation. This universe of his is fecund with life, joy, fear, dread and humanity’s assertion that love conquers all.

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Under Tchivzhel’s sharp-edged baton the 35-minute-long first movement launched the universe with nine raucous horns that shrieked and moaned to a crescendo. A battery of other brass blasted their way into the midst of insistent woodwinds, strings and percussion as a vast soundscape of imagery rose from the orchestra. The cosmos drew its first breath and a foot-tapping drum beat highlighted summer’s triumphal march that celebrates the will to live.

Throughout the concert, the nearly 200 instrumentalists and singers proved that today’s GSO is a solid interpreter of Mahler.

Mezzo-soprano Stacey Rishoi delivered her fourth movement solo, “O Mensch! Gib Acht!, with sincere intensity.

Joe Hughes’s ripe trombone and Jens Larsen’s lyrical trumpet both beautifully translated Mahler’s evocative message of life’s triumph.

The cheerful sounding boys chorus of the Chicora Voices, led by Alan and Laura Jean Reed, and the women’s chorus of the Greenville Chorale, led by Bingham Vick Jr., made the work’s grandeur a reality.

This program, the last of the season, represents an important milestone in the orchestra’s 69-year career: the premier of this work.

This was a not-to-miss sophisticated concert that gave all to Mahler’s ambitious and sophisticated work.

Ann Hicks is the former arts writer for The Greenville News.