The evolution of the Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra continues to amaze.
On Sunday, the orchestra brought the magic of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 to a large crowd at Glens Falls High School.
It was a glorious reading to end the orchestra’s 24th season as a professional organization. It also celebrated the 10th year Charles Peltz has been its music director.
The first part of the concert, however, was a complete contrast. In one of Peltz’s sometimes strange musical juxtapositions of repertoire choices, the program opened with Johann S. Bach’s Cantata No. 202 (“Wedding”) that featured principal oboist Bethany Slater, soprano Margaret Lampasi and about 13 of the orchestra’s players.
It was not clear if there was any connection, albeit remote, to the Mahler or whether Peltz just wanted to spotlight a few of his musicians. Even if the work, which is certainly one of Bach’s most tuneful, was short at about 25 minutes, there are plenty of other pieces in that time frame to match with the Mahler’s 53-minute symphony.
At any rate, the players didn’t seem too convinced as they started. The ensemble was very wary, even though Slater was smooth in the opening’s long, mournful lines.
Lampasi, too, wandered a bit before she took hold of herself in her aria. Her voice had a full, rich quality with a good range and she made a good effort.
However, as the piece progressed, not all of her tones landed in the right place, but neither did some of the notes principal cellist Jameson Platte played.
The best sections for the entire ensemble were the last aria, “Sich Uben in Lieben,” its recitative and the final gavotte. By then, everyone had gotten the idea of the style, had centered their pitch and were hearing each other better in what was a chamber music setting.
Then, as if on a turn of a dime, after intermission, an expanded orchestra began the mystical opening of the Mahler. They sounded terrific.
Throughout, Peltz set solid tempos that were well paced with occasional forays into brilliantly speedy codas that thrilled. There was a fervor and a joy in the musicians’ playing that made the music sparkle.
Rhythms were taut and the ensemble work was superior. Balances were generally good and phrasing was musical.
While the orchestra sounded exceptional at full tilt, in the softer and slower sections, more refinement was needed. It is the smaller details, after all, that show control and mastery.
But Mahler in Glens Falls was impressive. The audience hooted and clapped with delight.