Life-affirming. A triumphant, transcendent finale.
Mahler’s profound messages were powerfully transmitted by the Santa Cruz Symphony, featuring incredible local and guest talent conducted by Music Director Daniel Stewart.
Through the combination of individual technical excellence and harmonious group cohesion, the musicians and vocalists gave listeners a meaningful experience, echoing Mahler’s philosophical content through a soulful performance.
The Santa Cruz orchestra communicated the existential questions and emotions of Mahler’s musical language with a nuanced ebb and flow, theatrically conveying light and heavy moments of life and death, and the nostalgic moods of human beings.
The hushed, unified choral voices emerged supernaturally, and the rich, haunting vocals of each star soloist conveyed a breathtaking sense of the mystical.
In the final movements, the distancing of offstage musicians dispersed throughout the SC Civic Auditorium made the experience of an otherworldly afterlife all the more dramatic and magical.
Fleur Williams, Local Santa Cruz
It is indeed impressive when a young conductor makes musical magic on the podium and transforms the vast ideas of a composer such as Gustav Mahler into unremitting musical intensity. To compound this intensity, once again Maestro Daniel Stewart conducted this masterpiece from memory!
Throughout the sprawling score Stewart adhered to Mahler’s instructions. A brilliantly executed performance that had a tremendous impact on members of the sold out audience.
Maestro Stewart’s emphasis on keeping the large orchestra moving through the 90 minute symphony resulted in a continuous sense of atmosphere and meaningful contrasting strategy on a monumental scale.
Stewart urged string players to remain on the cutting edge of audibility with stunning effectiveness
Not only did Maestro Stewart meet the challenge of the first movement with an appropriate amount of weight and breath to fix itself in the minds of the audience, but he also gave us a foreshadowing of the great events about to unfold. The lovely ascending transitional theme that followed flowed naturally and gave it lyrical grace by the sensitivity of Stewart’s direction and the playing of an orchestra that not only was prepared, but steeped and inspired in the challenge of Mahler’s music. The concept of the essential funeral lament was performed as Mahler meant it to be, with controlled intensity and a fine sense of inner tension. The closing section interjected an image that seemed to be whispered, but only in the mind, as an illusion. a sound of levitation and wonder.
Stewart’s direction kept the orchestral textures churning while shaping Mahler’s rhythmic figures with freshness and accuracy that always maintained excellent overall balance. The supple and rich string playing, expressive woodwind (solo oboe in particular) and infallibly accurate and mellow-toned brass, performed throughout the concert with unfailing sensitive precision.
Director Stewart assured that the very grand final pages had tremendous impact, full of the Mahler-prescribed gravity and solemnity of expression. The brass blare, the chorus and soloists sailed on wings of highly defined ecstasy.
Maestro Stewart guided the orchestra, chorus and soloists with deep expressivity through its long journey with a sure hand to its tumultuous grand finale.
Kudos to Maestro Daniel Stewart, orchestra, chorus and soloists - a compelling performance in all respects!
Joseph Sekon, Peninsula Reviews
Daniel Stewart took the Santa Cruz Symphony to places many of its musicians had never been before
Stewart conducted the work entirely from memory, his body language both leading and reacting to every detail of its sprawling pageant.
The Symphonic Chorus, inspired and highly disciplined Santa Cruz Symphony musicians and their talented music director Daniel Stewart collectively went out on a limb for this extremely challenging work—With it, they ended their 60th Anniversary season by raising their own bar even higher.
As for Mahler, happily they will perform his Fourth Symphony on the opening program of their 61st season. Meanwhile, as I write this, the “Resurrection” Symphony continues to echo in my ears. I can’t get it out of my head, and I don’t want it to.
Scott MacClelland, Performing Arts Monterey Bay