Chicago Symphony Orchestra Gala Features Elina Garanca – Times Square Chronicles
The next time you travel to Chicago, be sure to check out the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Under the impeccable direction of Maestro Riccardo Muti, lies one of the city’s greatest treasures.
The CSO celebrated its success last Saturday evening at the annual gala concert in the magnificent orchestra hall. The acoustics of the orchestra hall allow even the highest balcony seats to enjoy the rich, full sound of the orchestra.
After 10 years at the head of the orchestra, Maestro Muti retires. Time is running out to take advantage of his masterful direction of this world-class orchestra. Maestro Muti effortlessly embodies the mood of each moment and transmits it to his players in a very emotional but also calm and composed gestural vocabulary, like the Maestro himself.
Mozart’s frothy overture Figaro’s wedding was a vibrant and engaging way to start the evening.
The CSO was then joined by Latvian mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca, who won acclaim in New York as well as around the world, singing Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder, based on the lyric poetry of the German romantic Friedrich Rückert.
As a mezzo, Ms. Garanca has a full and imposing low register, which matches the dark tone of the material. It was then almost surprising, and certainly delightful, to hear her navigate flawlessly to the lightest of her soprano register. His sensitive handling of legato lines was also full of grace and beauty.
However, I’m just not a fan of these art songs. Call me a heathen; but I would much rather hear a tune that I can recognize as such than listen to what just seems to wander like a recitative. I thought these dark bits were an odd choice for an otherwise upbeat program. Either way, the lovely Mrs. Garanca has exceptional control of her beautiful instrument.
I will admit that I prefer the singer actor of musical theater to the well-dressed but rigid classical performer in a recital setting. Musical theater singers must act when they sing, move with what they feel, and always sound beautiful. As elegant and beautiful as she was in her long black dress, Mrs. Garanca never smiled and moved almost nothing but her lips. I was impressed, but disengaged. I’m equally baffled by the classic tradition of audiences coughing and shaking their programs between tracks rather than applauding the singer song by song.
Fortunately, the balance of the program offered the audience two more uplifting orchestral pieces filled with memorable motifs, dynamic melodic construction and emotionally moving moments, which left everyone satisfied.
The Preludes by Liszt evokes a wide range of emotional reactions, from romantic to triumphant. As a child, I grew up watching television reruns of Flash Gordon soap operas that my father watched at the cinema. This series has been generously highlighted with this coin. In movies, the music tells you what you should feel, and what you should feel in every moment is pretty clear in this piece.
Before playing the last piece, the opening of Guillaume TellMaestro Muti, in his endearing and very personal way, took the time to tell the audience that he was unaware, as a young music student, that this piece had been co-opted as American “folk music” in making the theme of The Lone Ranger radio and television broadcasts. He also recounted, with dismay, that the Nazis also made it their anthem. He wanted audiences to be aware, especially in light of current world events, that this was a song of liberation from oppression for William Tell and the Swedes.