Crumb / Bruckner
Indian-born conductor Zubin Mehta’s enormous musical legacy keeps growing every year. With over six decades of distinguished stage experience around the globe, he has made Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino one of his creative homes. Its orchestra’s principal conductor from 1985 to 2017 and an honorary citizen of Florence, Mehta now returns to his favourite opera house to lead the performance of two very special works: the modern classic ‘Ancient Voices of Children’ by George Crumb and ‘Symphony No. 7 in E-Major’ by the late-Romanticist Anton Bruckner. Under the Maestro’s guidance, the talented soprano Mojca Erdmann and the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino promise a night to remember.
Zubin Mehta’s dynamic approach to conducting is an excellent match for the innovative and outlandish compositional method of George Crumb. The avantgarde American neoclassical composer has built an impressive catalogue of orchestral pieces that push the boundaries of traditional instruments’ sound and timbre. ‘Ancient Voices of Children’ is exemplary of Crumb’s unique style. Its inaugural performance took place at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., on 31 October 1970. Under the accompaniment of a prepared piano, harp, oboe, mandolin and percussions, Mojca Erdmann delivers the passionate verses of Federico García Lorca, to which the work is set, with exemplary emotion and precision. Crumb’s inventive vocal and instrumental sound effects give the cycle of five songs and two interludes an otherworldly quality.
Next comes ‘Symphony No. 7 in E-Major’ by Anton Bruckner, a composer whom Zubin Mehta has always loved conducting. This particular symphony is colloquially known as Bruckner’s ‘Lyric’. The premiere at the Leipzig Opera House on 30 December 1884 was the most acclaimed one in the composer’s career. The characteristics trembling opening motif for strings purportedly came to Bruckner in a dream, while the latter theme groups bear his signature octave-laden style. The second movement pays homage to Wagner by featuring the ‘Bayreuth tubas’. The scherzo in the third movement and the expansive, inventive finale make Bruckner’s Seventh an exciting musical journey. In Mehta’s steady and powerful hands, the piece is all the more enthralling.