Before Stern conducted Mahler this evening, pianist Kuok-Wai Lio performed Mendelssohn. The Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, a pleasant piece, was pristinely and perfectly played and evoked all the adjectives I associate with the delightfulness of the piano. I do love the piano (I know it's not a very original passion) and Kuok-Wai Lio played exceedingly well. But the Mendelssohn was a little bit ... I don't know ... dispassionate? It was simple and sweet - perhaps more like a Ruby Port? But I liked the Mahler better (Symphony No. 1 in D Major). It was more complex and interesting - like a Tawny Port? - but without being discordant or dissonant. The concert guide indicates a great deal of emotional turbulence in Mahler's life: three love affairs started and ended during the time he wrote this symphony. Mendelssohn, on the other hand, was writing this concerto during the year when Queen Victoria declared him her favorite composer. I think he must have been far too happy.
No, I preferred the Mahler symphony - lots of happy and sad and everything in between. It was quite robust, too, and loud enough to make the woman in front of us plug her ears. (She often plugs her ears, just when things get good.) The crowd was strangely out of sorts tonight, with false-start applause at the wrong time not just once but TWICE. Quite the faux pas. But in their (the crowd's) defense, each of the movements in the Mahler piece had a finality to it that made it sound like it could have been the last. Maybe that reflects the ends of those love affairs? Maybe not?