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Music Reviews : Mehta Leads AYS in Mahler’s Third

Mehli Mehta and the American Youth Symphony knocked ‘em dead Sunday night at Royce Hall, UCLA, in an altogether virtuoso performance of Mahler’s sprawling Third Symphony, concluding the orchestra’s 23rd season.

Energy, intensity and commitment were unflagging from all forces. Mehta, conducting from memory, let nothing slip past him in a work fraught with traps. Every cue, every dynamic intention was clearly telegraphed, and the orchestra responded with near hair-trigger precision. This made the many on-the-spot balance adjustments especially impressive.

Propulsion without haste, grandeur without stagnation and vehemence without slovenliness characterized the performance, which built with no letdown. A bleep here, a splat there in the brass rated no demerits. The scurrying figures for strings and woodwinds in the Menuetto, accomplished without a blur, typified the notable accuracy of all sections.

Gail Dubinbaum’s earthbound mezzo lacks the requisite vocal color, weight and spiritual projection for this music, but the Paulist Boy Choristers and UCLA Women’s Choir produced the desired sweet sounds. Trumpeter Tim Divers splayed a few notes but played the “Posthorn” solo superbly. Indeed, every instrumental soloist deserves recognition.

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It was a mighty short 100 minutes.


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