Rembrandt Chamber Players make a case for slenderized Mahler

Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 10:01 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

One can get some idea of the richness of Chicago’s music scene by the fact that Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde has been heard in its chamber arrangement twice in as many months.

Tuesday night it was the turn of the Rembrandt Chamber Players. Currently marking its 20th anniversary season, the event at the Merit School of Music’s Gottlieb Hall brought the third and final installment of the ensemble’s Mahler Project, which has been presenting major works of the Viennese composer in chamber reductions.

In the pre-recording era, the only way to hear large-scale new works like that of Mahler was to present live chamber performances. Arnold Schoenberg began his transcription of Das Lied von der Erde for his Society for Private Musical Performances. Considering that Schoenberg’s 14-player version was completed by Rainier Riehen, it is suprisingly effective, the artful scoring losing little of Mahler’s expressive high points, with piano and celesta filling in the harmonies.

If not possessing the most youthful of tenor voices, Kurt R. Hansen showed himself a spirited and nimble Mahlerian, idiomatic in the opening song and The Drunkard in Springtime.

Emily Lodine’s mezzo is rather slender in the low and midrange, but the singer was a consistently inspired and expressive soloist, ardent in The Lonely One in Autumn, and handling some challengingly fast tempos by conductor Jane Glover in the central section in Of Beauty.

Lodine rose to the supreme challenge of the finale Der Abschied, singing sensitively and conveying the nostalgic heartache and sadness of the setting with sensitively nuanced shading at the coda.

Even with just 14 players, Mahler’s music is complex enough to require a conductor. Since the Rembrandt Chamber Players was launched as a spinoff group from Music of the Baroque, it’s apt that the latter’s current music director Jane Glover lead these performances.

Outside her usual Baroque-Classical bailiwick, Glover showed an impressive command of the Mahlerian idiom, judging the ebb and flow skillfully and bringing out the scoring details with punch and emphatic impact from the ensemble. Perhaps too emphatic at times, with Glover’s vividly characterized chamber forces at times competing too aggressively with the singers rather than supporting them.

Still, if a bit high-powered the playing of the ensemble was consistently inspired with especially terrific support from Robert Hanford’s refined and expressive violin playing.

The concert began with the Two Rhapsodies of Charles Martin Loeffler. Longtime co-concertmaster of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Loeffler’s works for oboe, viola and piano are darkly chromatic, inspired by a pair of gloomy poems by Maurice Rollinat.

Oboist Robert Morgan, violist Keith Conant and pianist Andrea Swan provided fine advocacy to these gorgeous, dark-textured works with especially sensitive playing by Conant in The Bagpipe.

Posted in Performances, Uncategorized

2 Responses to “Rembrandt Chamber Players make a case for slenderized Mahler”

  1. Posted Mar 25, 2010 at 9:16 am by Emily Lodine

    Mr. Johnson-
    Thank you for such a fair description of the Mahler concert-I am back in SW Minnesota and was happy to see your apt comments. I so appreciate what you do!
    All best, Emily Lodine

  2. Posted Mar 25, 2010 at 11:02 am by Mark Feldman

    Beautifully and vividly described. Congrats!

Leave a Comment