Final audience
  for Ozawa
  in great form!

 ... Mirror staff critic spoofs hickups, sputters and ahems

by Jackie Wattenberg

The audience at Seiji Ozawa's final Boston performance will never forget his superb performance of Mahler's great Ninth Symphony.

And without a doubt, Ozawa will never forget the audience's memorable performance between movements!

As soon as the long first movement, about 40 minutes in length, came to an end, the conductor paused traditionally. The attentive audience was ready --  the silence was immediately filled with a marvelous subito fortissimo of coughs in minor keys, four-part throat clearing of clarinet clarity and oboe resonance, and a nicely-balanced counterpoint of mezzo throat clearing, robust baritone ahem-ing and double bass agitato gutterals.

Subtle and pianissimo came the pizzicato pipes and sniffs, and the resounding off-beat percussive emphasis of rapid foot stomping. Hearing this symphonic sinus interlude on the radio, I could almost see their conductor gesturing, because their sudden cut-off was admirably clean and sharp! On to Mahler's second movement!

Only minor (not major, which would have been unsuitable to the Mahler mood) sputtering was audible at conclusions of the second and third movements, a fine note of restraint. However, near the enthralling symphony's diminuendo ending, further efforts at participating in this historic concert were noteworthy, especially, perhaps, on radio. There was a sustained legato section in which Mahler combined high strings and low-ranged cellos and basses, leaving a middle area achingly hollow, unusual and affecting; here is where one man offered to fill in the space with a mid-range stifled cough -- just one!
Not to be outdone, another added his own nasal snort a few measures after, then a modest tenor wheeze, each solo right on the beat, not easy to detect in the freely-meandering, ever- searching Mahler. Pianissimo rasps complemented the diminishing tones of the symphony, to the very end.

If this grand final concert happened to be recorded, what pride these dedicated catarrhists will enjoy -- performing right along with Seiji Ozawa for posterity!


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