Commentary: Conductor Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla has changed symphonic life. It’s changed her too: it’s not just what she does in concerts anymore; it’s how she does it. Her last concert tour, with the Boston Pops, was an almost unbroken string of masterworks ranging from Mozart’s “Concerto for Piano and Orchestra” to Schubert’s “Death and Transfiguration of the Countess” to Mahler’s “Symphony No. 9.” The only exception was Mahler’s “Gurre-Lieder,” which was given two separate sets of encores, in a double-concert performance and a single concert, with a soloist and another chorus, and a much shorter symphony. “The first two sets of encores were the ones that really took me over,” Gražinyte-Tyla told the WGBH host in Boston. “The piece was all of a piece: the melodies and the harmonies came back,” she said. “I guess in the beginning, I did think it had been played enough.” That was, in part, because Gražinyte-Tyla’s own version was so different from the more usual approach to Mahler, which makes Mahler’s second and third symphonies into works of an altogether different type—something Mahler, a classicist bent, was never supposed to do.
“I saw your rehearsal last night,” Gražinyte-Tyla said to the conductor. “You were great. It was just as good as we hoped it would be.” She paused. “I thought you gave it a chance.”
Gražinyte-Tyla’s new approach to Mahler—if it is a new approach—has roots far back. I came to her not as a Mahler specialist—the first I’ve ever met—but as a longtime listener. I don’t know what it means to have a conversation with another person about their musical background, about the work