I went to Walter Hall last night to see a couple of Mahler works in chamber reduction played by the Faculty Artists Ensemble conducted by Uri Mayer. I think I like Mahler in chamber reduction a lot. With one instrument to a part complex textures become clearer. No doubt there are conductors that can produce that clarity with a big orchestra but there are also, sadly, too many who reduce it to a grisly stew of unidentified body parts. It also allows singers to be heard without screaming. The only time I want to hear a tenor sounding like a goat being slaughtered is in that Dean Burry piece. I guess chamber reduction might not work for, say, the 8th Symphony but for the orchestral song cycles, the 4th Symphony, and, I’d hazard a guess, the 2nd Symphony I like it just fine.
So last night, an ensemble of 14 or 15 top notch players gave us the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen with tenor Darryl Edwards as soloist. This was interesting because this usually gets done by a baritone or contralto and has to be transposed up for a tenor, the arrangement in this case being by Colin Matthews, making it sound a bit unfamiliar. It was good though I thought the tempo in, especially, Wenn mein Schatz seemed rather slow. One could hear all the words and all the instrumental lines. Nice! The same could be said for the Symphony No.4, in a reduction by Klaus Simon, where Monica Whicher joined the band as soprano soloist in the final movement. What’s not to love in that crazy surrealistic piece set in a sort of heavenly Restaurant at the End of the Universe? Lovely performance too from all concerned.
The whole thing too had a kind of salon feel. Walter Hall wasn’t exactly full but a pretty high proportion of the people there were students or professional musicians. It was kind of cool.