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.
The Mahler is a much longer piece. It features six movements or songs; three each for the mezzo and the tenor. I felt it worked best in the spritelier movements. Andrew gave a very jaunty and characterful account of Von der Jugend for example. In the slower movements I would have preferred an approach that was closer to the folk roots of the piece and a bit less metrically precise and, well, academic. Megan’s approach rather emphasised that lack of spontaneity though it was undeniably beautiful. The multiple repeated “Ewig… Ewig…” at the end of the final piece rather summed up how I was feeling by that point.
It’s going to be an interesting year for the Ensemble Studio with some new singers of considerable quality. Emily d’Angelo was just announced as one of five winners in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Then there’s Danika Lorèn about whom I’ve already said enough and, now, Megan Quick.