Michael Tilson Thomas’s debut concert with the MET Orchestra included two composers for whom he has a special affinity: Ruggles and Mahler.
Following a witty introduction to Carl Ruggles’s music and his methods of composition, MTT launched a glowing performance of the aptly-titled Evocations. Initially written for piano and finished in 1943, the twelve-minute work is one of only a handful of fastidiously crafted pieces that this fiercely independent American composer (1876-1971) produced. Scored for large forces, Evocations is bold and meticulously sculpted to maximize dramatic contrasts, made stirring and vivid in this impressive account. The first and fourth sections serve as frames for dense, energetic and seemingly spontaneous melodic flow marked by many ebbs and climaxes, serene moments and sudden bursts of stormy dissonance.
The demanding vocal part of Mozart’s teenage Exsultate, jubilate was taken by Pretty Yende, exuberant and brilliantly articulated. Her voice was lush, resonant and clear, rising wholeheartedly to the brilliant ‘Alleluia’ setting with effortless coloratura. MTT a superb accompanist throughout, fresh and alert.
Yende returned for the Mahler, pure and highly affecting in the ‘Wunderhorn’ Finale (a child’s view of Heaven), part of warm and affectionate reading during which MTT drew brilliantly supple and colorful playing, concertmaster David Chan appropriately devilish in the second movement. The peak of the performance was the dreamlike, seamlessly flowing Adagio.