Two blockbusters in two weeks: This past weekend the Cleveland Orchestra performed Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, with Jahja Ling making his last subscription concert appearance as the Resident Conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra. (He is the ultimate Christoph von Dohnanyi protegé, so it’s not surprising that he’s moving on before the incoming new Welser-Möst regime arrives completely.) The soloists were Janice Chandler, soprano, (subbing at the last minute for an “indisposed” Valdine Anderson–the gossip among chorus members was that Ms. Anderson was not up to the part at their rehearsals) and Michelle De Young, the hot new Mahler mezzo.
The orchestra sounded great–they were obviously playing well for their longtime Number Two conductor at his farewell. The chorus entered the stage between the first and second movements. The two soloists were up in the middle of the last row of the chorus, which actually was a good place, because the organ screen gave them some rear sound projection that they wouldn’t have had right down front. But it was a bit startling to see these big women with big hair and big dresses up in the chorus. When they first entered, I said to George, “I assume that’s the soloists and not too gigantic drag queens who have infiltrated the chorus.” I must have said it louder than I intended, because there were titters from several other audience members in our vicinity. Michelle De Young particularly looked like a drag queen with her huge mop of long curly blonde hair. But, boy, does she have a voice. It’s no wonder she’s on everybody’s list to sing Mahler. She’s going to have a big (no pun intended) career. She’ll be back to sing more with the orchestra next season.
The end of the symphony was simply thrilling, with the full organ (being played invisibly by Joela Jones from somewhere other than the stage–no room for the console), chorus, soloists and orchestra blasting away. The audience was on its feet cheering immediately.
A few weeks off now until mid-April, when Oliver Knussen shows up to conduct one of his bizarre programs.