Berlioz, in six songs sung by Barbara Hendricks, instantly overflows his emotional banks, frees form to outline the molten emotion of his music. For him, Cherubini was antediluvian, a fusspot.
Muti's affection for both showed in the performance. Cherubini was noble, Berlioz excessive - and transparently beautiful. Hendricks was not the singer to fit into this context. She has an exquisite, small voice which gives no luster back to the orchestra and which tended to drain the poetry from the playing by the gleaming inexpressiveness of her singing. Her approach is not invalid, but with this orchestra and in this context, hers was a wraith's progress through Berlioz' heated imaginings.
All that introduced Wagner's rare Faust Overture, early music that gives first hearings to a way of composing that matured in The Ring and other later opera. Motives contend, build, struggle and eventually reach a spiritual resolution that leaves an audience swooning.
By comparison with Scriabin - in his La Poeme de l'extase - Wagner was as square and prim as Cherubini had seemed only an hour before. Muti will have recorded all the Scriabin symphonic works, and this piece came in gleaming form to this concert. The expanded orchestra, the feverish concentration of sound and themes, the dementia of the whole idea which layers so much music in one experience that only a fraction of it can be heard are structural elements of the music. Muti paced that layering carefully to produce an ever-growing mass of sound. In the final bars, that outcry seemed logical and certainly ecstatic. It was not volume without conviction, and it summarized one of
Muti's most remarkable programs.