Eliahu Inbal: Mahler 6 at the Singapore Esplanade Concert Hall
What a treat. Mahler’s brilliant 6th Symphony turned out to be a wonderful experience at the stunning 1,800 seater Esplanade Concert Hall, with 120 musician strong Singapore Symphony Orchestra – of which almost a third were women – of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.
There is much reference to Mahler’s life and how important his wife, Alma, was to him. His 6th Symphony was written at a happy time, after the birth of his second child. It was premiered in Essen Germany in 1906, a performance which he conducted. It is an hour and a half in duration, with some of the most beautiful melodies that Mahler ever penned.
The Singapore Symphony Orchestra is one of the leading orchestras in the Far East, but is also a young orchestra and has not got the in-depth reputation that some of the European orchestras possess. However, it is made up of great quality musicians and they did Mahler proud.
The Israeli Conductor, Eliahu Inbal, controlled the evening’s events. He has received international acclaim for his interpretation of Mahler and 2016 marked his 80th birthday. He was one of a number of international conductors marking the opening of the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg in 2017. He must have worked incredibly hard with the orchestra to ensure that the cohesion of the music and intricacy of the work were conveyed by the orchestra to the audience. It was an enthusiastic but tender performance and at times with overwhelming sound. It might not have been as subtle as some of the great orchestras could achieve, but it was nonetheless a luxurious performance.
Of particular note was the menacing bass pounding, which ushers in the huge funeral march in the first movement, as well as the incredible optimistic sound at its ending. Apart from the most beautiful melodies in the third movement, the use of cowbells is a nostalgic reminiscence of the countryside. The famous hammer blows in the final movement, where the music repeatedly builds to various climaxes and the constant change from major to minor chords, is a sign of something menacing ever approaching.
Singapore bathed in the glory of this performance, but unfortunately not to a full house with apparently too little promotion to blame.