LENOX — It rained on Friday night for Mahler's Second Symphony. The sun shone Sunday afternoon for Mahler's Fourth.
Change of weather, change of outcome. In contrast with the Boston Symphony Orchestra's muddled opening-night performance of the Second, the Fourth provided one of those magical Tanglewood hours when music and nature meet in harmony. As Andris Nelsons returned to the BSO podium, everything seemed right with the world (but please don't mention politics).
Sleigh bells jingled, Death waltzed and 11,000 virgins did a heavenly dance — all in playing wondrous in detail, color and mood, all of which Mahler is a master. The BSO director even had the smart idea of forging a natural link between the last two movements. Near the end of the third movement, soprano Kristine Opolais walked onstage for her solo in the finale. Nelson then segued movements, preventing an interruption of the golden moment by applause.
The Fourth is the sunniest of Mahler's nine symphonies, benevolent in evocation of countryside and nature. Nelsons brought the outdoors into the Shed, and vice versa. Tempos were often in flux, but naturally, arising out of the flow of the music. Wonderful details emerged from the winds. The horns! The flutes! The clarinets! The ensemble!
In the second movement, concertmaster Malcolm Lowe's deliberately mistuned violin as "Friend Death" (Mahler's title is ironic), rather than scary, joined in the sense that life is too beautiful for death to be scary. The third movement, wonderfully sustained, evoked a feeling of timeless serenity, flowing easily into the finale. Opolais, who is Nelsons' wife, was a little too operatic for the innocence of the earthly pleasures hymned in "Life in Heaven," the finale's song. The effect was transporting nonetheless.
If the Second Symphony thunders the certainty of resurrection, the Fourth contents itself with contemplation of the joyous here and now. Heaven could wait.
The afternoon's big crowd-pleaser was smaller in scale: the American debut of Swedish violinist Daniel Lozakovich, all of 16 years old, and looking even younger and slighter. He played Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3, the work of a teenage composer, with suavity that belied his years but occasionally bordered on slickness, especially in the adagio movement. Impressive, and probably bound for stardom. Time will tell.
Already big on the European scene, Lozakovich was rewarded with a mystery solo encore. It turned out to be Fritz Kreisler's showy Recitative and Scherzo-Caprice, Opus 6, providing opportunity for some razzle-dazzle. In the concerto, Nelsons put a reduced BSO at the soloist's service.
To affirm that nature was present in all her glory, starlings returned to the Shed's rafters, contributing a squawking music.