One can only marvel at the scale (even if its popularity doesn’t match) of Mahler’s 8th Symphony and the bravery involved in attempting to stage it. Two orchestras, 400 singers, seven soloists all coming from various places around the country and world make for a handful. But under Arvo Volmer’s direction, this monumental show and finale to Paul Grabowsky’s festival was pulled off resoundingly well. It is 32 years since such an ambition was last carried out in Adelaide, then at Centennial Hall at the fifth Adelaide Festival. Much has changed for the city and the festival since then but this music remains a towering piece in symphony lore. The first movement, Veni, Creator Spiritus, is uplifting and magnificent and Russian soprano Marina Shaguch carried the day. The second, Final scene of Goethe’s Faust Pt 111, is somewhat more difficult but the message of love and hope fuses all in the finale.

The use of an upstairs vantage point for the horn signatures and the Mother Mary’s solo was inspired and carried off well. The ability to keep such a large stage contingent up to the beat was a credit to both Volmer and Chorus Director, Carl Crossin.

The disappointment was the amplification used, particularly in the opening 5 – 10 minutes which threatened to ruin it all. After all that money spent on the Entertainment Centre revamp, it is a pity more attention was not paid to resolving these issues and exactly what extra sound boost is required for a stage ensemble of this magnitude (other than for the soloists) is not clear. Mahler’s own first performance had over 3000 in attendance with not a microphone or banks of speakers in sight.

Perhaps as surprising was the spartan use of light and the apparent absence of recording devices to perpetuate the occasion (there is but one recording only of Mahler 8 on i-tunes!) Was this in fact an opportunity missed.

An event for the list of ‘I was there’ and a credit to Volmer and his ASO and badge of honour for the Festival in its 50th year.

Kryztoff Rating     4K