...and even slower. I have been going to the Mahler cycle in Manchester. Last Saturday was the massive Third Symphony, this Thursday it was the Fourth. Wonderful music and some excellent playing, but, especially on Thursday, the tempo was so slow. Long lingering performances are meant to wring every ounce of emotion and drama out of the music. For me, all they do is misrepresent it. The awkward and the lively becomes smooth and sonorous. It is as if the Alps are being depicted as the Pennines.
When I came home after the concert I searched YouTube and found a 1939 recording of a live performance given by the Dutch conductor Willem Mengelberg. Mengelberg knew and worked with Mahler and heard Mahler himself conduct the symphony in 1904. The faster pace throughout is striking. And for those of you familiar with the Adagietto from the Fifth Symphony, a tender love song often rendered as tragic, most famously and ravishingly in Visconti's film of Death in Venice, should listen to this astonishing 1926 recording, again by Mengelberg.
It has been endemic in classical music although now the trend towards authentic performance is beginning to restore a faster tempo, but popular music has had the same treatment. Wailing and vocal pyrotechnics have displaced melody. The attempt to re-interpret standards simply by showing off is everywhere. It isn't always bad though, occasionally it can be stunning and compellingly dramatic, so sit back and enjoy this spectacular performance by the legendary Whitley Euston.