Arnold Schoenberg’s hybrid behemoth among “lyric symphonies”, Gurrelieder, finally has its Brazillian premiere. Some may find it rather overdue and – they might be right – but, given the work’s various challenges, it is rather infrequently performed even in places like Vienna or Berlin.
The OSESP has invited veteran maestro Isaac Karabtchevsky to share the honor of making history. If his love for the music is evident, those were rather the embers of an Indian summer than the flames of young love. Tempi were sluggish, soporific even in Part I, and the proceedings would acquire some animation only around Part Three. Textures could be thick, with the double disadvantage of lack of clarity and extra difficulty for singers. Balance would often leave something to be desired: the male chorus had a blurred sound, but most problematic would be the polarity loud-noisy/low-matte. That lack of development in pace and dynamic robbed the passionate outbursts of Tove and Waldemar of variety and any sense of climax.
The choice of soloists proved to be mostly frustrating in these circumstances. Jennifer Rowley has an interesting high register: her top notes are a bit veiled, but big and firm and round. Plus she can fine them down to piano and even pianissimo. In the rest of her range, her soprano barely pierces through. Her interpretation proved to have more spirit than usual, even if the pronunciation was basically nonspecific. Christine Rice proved more efficient in a light but healthy mezzo with a pleasant velvety sound and the best diction in the afternoon. Robert Dean Smith is always musicianly and pleasant in tone, but the part requires a voice many sizes larger than his. Most of his singing was, truth be said, really hard to hear. Andreas Schmidt’s miked contribution as the narrator was done in spontaneous manner, more sung than spoke in style, and yet bot truly varied or animated.