The TSMF performance of Das Lied von der Erde in the Schoenberg/Riehn reduction was a mixed bag last night, with orchestral side coming through and the vocal one much less so. The usually very capable mezzo Rihab Chaieb appeared a fish out of water in the Mahler. There was no requisite volume or colour in mid and lower ranges, and what in the critics’ parlance is known as the ‘purity of tone’ was MIA. The text was mangled on occasion. Whose bright idea was it to cast her for Das Lied, one wonders – the repertoire which she may, who knows, end up singing well some time, but for which she is at present not ready.
Young tenor Mario Bahg showed more promise, but he had much much less to do in his three short songs. Short but dastardly – with the chiroscuro of the highs and lows that need to appear seamless, logical and easy to do. Maybe one day.
All the drama of the Abschied therefore had to be provided by the chamber-size orchestra comprised of the TSO principals and non-TSO freelancers under Gemma New’s baton (the first piece in the program, Mozart Violin Concerto 5 with Jonathan Crow, was largely played by the young TSMF Academy fellows). In this they succeeded, with Keith Hamm (viola), Emmanuelle Bealieu-Bergeron (cello), Kelly Zumba (flute), Michael Sweeney (bassoon), Sarah Jeffrey (oboe) and Jonathan Crow as first violin in particular leading the charge. The work the reduced orchestra is expected to do is the work of an entire Mahlerian orchestra, but nothing seemed to be lacking last night, all the solos and accents in the right places. Watching Gemma New conduct was watching an extremely committed, attuned, energetic musical interpreter in action. She’s all-in in Mahler. I can already see more trips to Hamilton on my agenda next season.