After attending Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, part of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival’s summer season, I felt compelled to write about it…so moving was the entire event. I hesitated momentarily because I felt that perhaps I couldn’t be completely objective as I am currently working with Paul Groves in The Tales of Hoffmann here at the Santa Fe Opera, and have worked with Susan Graham over the course of the last many years in the business. However, I must admit that while my interactions with Mr. Groves and Ms. Graham have been both social and professional, they have at the same time never been those that could be described as “buddy-buddy” or too interpersonal by any means. Therefore, I do feel that there exists enough professional and personal detachment that I can fairly “review” what I witnessed this evening (Sunday July 25, 2010).
The Chamber players assembled for this event were nothing short of phenomenal. They were ably led by the wonderfully understated David Zinman at the podium, as they executed the Schoenberg edition/reduction/arrangement of Mahler’s rather massive orchestration with ease and assurance. (Special mention must be made of the first-violin, pianist, and oboist.)
(In order of vocal appearance:) While Paul Groves was slightly concerned about his vocal health on this day, there was precious little evidence of any discomfort or reduced vocal capacity during the one hour and fifteen minute program. His is a ‘sure’ voice that rarely, if ever, disappoints; even under the most grueling of circumstances. Easy high notes and a flexible middle voice are Groves’ strong suit; desirable vocal gifts which can often be obliterated by the intrepid forces of Mahler’s full orchestration.
Groves’ close friend and artistic partner of the day was the celebrated Susan Graham, who is proudly announced in the program as ‘Artist in Residence’ for this summer by the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. Ms. Graham, who sang ‘Das Lied‘ for the first time today was in exquisite vocal form; her honeyed tones easily carrying over the reduced orchestration, allowing her ample opportunity to infuse the rich poetic text with clarity of emotion. I must further admit that while I am no expert on Mahler, or Das Lied von der Erde, I feel that after this many years in the performance end of the business, I have the right to a few conclusions….that is to say, I know excellent singing and musicianship when I hear it; and it was in full evidence today with this very fine performance.