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.
At Walter Hall last night to see the Faculty Artists Ensemble with Megan Quick and Andrew Haji conducted by Uri Mayer perform the chamber versions of Das Lied der Waldtaube from Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde in the Schoenberg arrangement. The main reason for going was to get as chance to hear Megan in something more substantial than the things I’ve seen her in with UoT Opera. Plus, a chance to hear Andrew is always very welcome.
The orchestration for both these pieces may be chamber scale but it’s heavy on the winds and it takes a fair bit of power to deal with that in a space like Walter Hall. It was clear in Das Lied der Waldtaube that Megan has that. Her instrument is a rich, darkish mezzo with significant beauty of tone and she has great control. If I were to be picky, I’d say she has a tendency to focus on producing beautiful sounds at the expense of the text to some extent but I’d say that about a lot of successful singers. It’s a matter of taste and maybe something she will feel differently about after a spell with the Ensemble Studio. The basics are there for sure and the piece left me wanting to listen to Gurrelieder in full again. It’s been a long time. Continue reading