The Chicago Symphony, conducted by Sir Georg Solti, played two concerts over the weekend in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The Saturday program created the greater excitement, a furor that would have done justice to Super Bowl football.
The playing on Sunday was of equal caliber, but after an hour of Mahler's Fifth Symphony, even the most volatile of spirits can be dampened. It does not discount Mahler to observe that Ravel's "Daphnis et Chloe" Ballet Suite No. 2 and Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique" are better designed to release pent-up public tensions and enthusiasms.
Both works were accorded breathtaking performances. The boundless depth and richness of the Chicago sound served Ravel with gorgeous sensuality, supported by the ultrapolished contributions of the first-desk soloists. The final climax was like an overwhelming tidal wave.
The "Symphonie Fantastique" has long remained a standardized bore, but not under Solti's hands. Berlioz's febrile visions glowed with burning intensity, every orchestral subtlety was exposed with microscopic clarity, and the "March to the Scaffold" and "The Witches' Sabbath" were positively incendiary. Virtuoso performance can go no farther. Solti added Debussy's "Fetes" for an encore.
Solti, of course, is a long-recognized master of Mahler. The length and discursiveness faze neither him nor his musicians. There is always some inventive new nuance or color to dispute the monotony, and an emotional conviction that defeats all opposition. The funeral music, the anguish, the tumultuous activity, the exquisite introspection of the Adagietto were all effortlessly incorporated into the huge architectural scheme. Nothing was really too much, but now and then things came close to the border line.
The Saturday program opened with a cool and immaculate "Haffner" Symphony of Mozart. Haydn's Symphony No. 103, served for the Sunday preface.