Author Topic: What is it with those hanging metallic plates?  (Read 79 times)

Offline mike bosworth

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What is it with those hanging metallic plates?
« on: April 16, 2019, 06:59:40 AM »
Last Sunday I attended a pretty decent performance of M6 here in Tokyo by the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande conducted by Jonathan Nott (FYI he choose the Scherzo-Andante order for the middle movements).

In the Finale Mahler calls for bells or chimes of some type (don't have the score handy), but in this performance one of those racks of metallic plates was apparently used (off stage) and they sounded simply atrocious, as if someone had knocked over a garbage bin full of tin cans. 

The cowbells for passages marked 'in die Ferne' [?] were also played off stage, and were for all intents and purposes inaudible.

As usual, I could not her the celesta and harp parts during the 'Alma theme' in the first movement, IMHO one of Mahler's very few errors in instrumentation since they never seem to be able to cut through the rest of the orchestral sound during those passages.

Nott's rendering of the Andante Moderato (tempo, dynamics, etc.) was beautifully done, the best I've heard to date.

Mike Bosworth
Tokyo

Offline barryguerrero

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Re: What is it with those hanging metallic plates?
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2019, 12:32:55 AM »
Yes, in this day and age where they amplify everything, they don't amplify the harps. Go figure. Mahler wrote two harp parts and he wanted them doubled. Thus, there should be at least four harps on stage. That's not going to happen The celeste probably needs to be amplified as well. If not, it should be located closer to the edge of the stage.

The offstage cowbell 'thang' is also stupid. Mahler should have specified that if the offstage cowbells can't be heard, bring them onstage and forget about it. For offstage, you need a boatload of cowbells and two players, not one. The best thing is to have them on hanging straps and actually shake them. This day and age, they run sticks or mallets up into the cowbells themselves. I don't like it - it doesn't sound like cows wondering around in the fields. Instead, it sounds like a cow shaking it's head because of insects or something.

Yes, there's a lot of dumb stuff that doesn't get thought through, particularly in regards to the percussion. There are places in the finale where the snare drum should be doubled (same with M3/I, by the way). The 'muted' snare drum roll that's located where the third hammer stroke used to be- that should be played with a strong accent in order to mimic the sound of a baby hammer stroke (which is musically appropriate for that spot). And on and on it goes.

Oh, and metallic plates   .    .    .  that's another compromise that's employed because they're easy to cart about. If you don't have a set of real bells and don't want to use the holy doorbells (tubular chimes), a better sounding solution is have a set of suspended oxygen/acetylene tanks, but cut at different (and appropriate) lengths. However, they require a very sturdy stand and aren't easy to move about.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2019, 11:53:17 AM by barryguerrero »