Just as The Israel Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic met up in Tokyo last November, the two orchestras once again met in San Francisco.  This time, the reviewers had a special opportunity to compare two great orchestras performing two great symphonies on the same day: Mahler’s Fifth and Sixth Symphonies!

Each orchestra claims a special connection to this symphonic music: Gustav Mahler was music director of the Vienna State Opera, and his Jewish roots are apparent in all of his works.

The following sentences are from a review in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“The imposing Viennese forces, under the leadership of conductor Semyon Bychkov, gave the most potent performance of their stay, marked by massive textures and fearlessly tragic rhetoric; and the Israelis, led by lifetime Music Director Zubin Mehta, played with enormous subtlety and tact, giving the most nuanced and elegant performance I can remember hearing from this orchestra in many years.

The Viennese took a clear position as gatekeepers of the tradition; the Israelis, by contrast, treated Mahler’s music with a wide swath of knowing irony – even in the first movement, a funeral march that would seem ill-suited to such an approach.  In the Scherzo, the orchestra caught both the lilting beauty of Mahler’s writing and the faint air of parody that suffuses the movement.

A superbly balanced account of Haydn’s Symphony No. 96, “The Miracle,” occupied the first half of the program.”     Joshua Kosman   San Francisco Chronicle