Analyze This: An Evening of Mahler in Baltimore
by Michael Rainbow
On Saturday November 6th, in Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra presented a program entitled “Analyze This: Mahler and Freud ©- A Symphonic Play” by Marion Alsop and Didi Balle, featuring Marin Alsop conducting, contralto Kristina Lewis, and actors Tony Tsendeas (Sigmund Freud) and Richard Pilcher (Gustav Mahler).
The dramatic background was the recounting of a single psychoanalytical session in 1910 between Gustav Mahler and Sigmund Freud in the town of Leiden, Holland. The reason for this session stemmed from the growing troubles between Gustav Mahler and his wife Alma Mahler during their marriage. The dramatic presentation was infused with orchestral excerpts and explanations of musical motifs within Mahler’s music along with his emulation and adoration of Beethoven’s symphonic works.
The entire presentation was fulfilling not only to me as a musician, but I also felt that it was extremely beneficial to the general audience who perhaps did not know the intricate workings of Mahler and the significances within his musical compositions. Marin Alsop used the breaks within the dramatic plotline to regurgitate compositional traits of Mahler’s works, which were then followed by an example from within one of his symphonies, thus creating an audible connection for the listener to the music that was being highlighted. This was my first experience in the Meyerhoff Hall, so having this, I made some quick observations from the onset of the orchestral sound. In general, this hall tends to highlight the lower frequency instruments within the orchestration (i.e. cello, brass), and I often lost the upper strings within the sound on several occasions, however as an ensemble the orchestra played cohesively, and vibrantly to the delight of myself and those around me.
As for the actors, Tony Tsendeas (Sigmund Freud), and Richard Pilcher (Gustav Mahler), I could have not imagined in my mind’s eye a more perfect pair to portray these two iconic figures. Tsendeas presented Freud as stoic, witty, and always in control of the situation — just as many would have supposed Freud to behave. Pilcher was definitely in touch with his character’s inner workings, as he presented Mahler to be slightly pompous, neurotic, somewhat superstitious, and at times oblivious to his wrong doings. Didi Balle (Writer/Stage Director), included humor that was appropriate for the time period, and definitely created a polished product that spoke clearly and took the audience on an emotional path that encompassed a variety of emotions.
Kristina Lewis as Alma Mahler was truly the stand out artist of the evening. Her portrayal of Alma showed a wide range of inflection and left the audiences wanting more. Her soft sweet speaking voice was perfect for the reflections and references that Gustav Mahler would have during his sessions with Dr. Freud, yet her voice emulated the very subject of the “Kindertotenlieder” as she sang in reflection to Gustav Mahler’s work after his daughters death. Her most striking singing came during Alma Mahler’s Lieder “Die stille Stadt,” which followed Dr. Freud’s monologue of how Gustav Mahler had died. This song, along with Lewis’s voice was the most emotionally provoking of the evening, as the somber tone went hand in hand with Mahler’s death and Alma’s reminiscing of how she composed the song following his departure with the words: “it just came to me,” making the moment all the more special for the listeners.
The concert was complete, the story line was complete, and yet what was not complete was my desire to see more programs of this nature. Educating the general audience is our responsibility as artists and on this evening I must say job well done! I am looking forward to more projects like these appearing in the musical community, but I must say that the bar has been set very high, and we should all strive to present our love of music in such a way.
Michael Rainbow, Tenor, is a second year Graduate Student studying with Stanley Cornett at the Peabody Conservatory. He hails from Wilmington, Delaware and completed his undergraduate work at Valley Forge Christian College with a B.S. in Music Education and a B.A. in Voice Performance. Before attending Peabody he studied under Mrs. Sandra Carney and Mr. David Jones. While at Valley Forge Michael was featured in such roles as Tamino in Die Zauberfloete and Kasper in Amahl and the Night Visitors. He was featured in various opera scenes including Rodolfo in La Boheme, Fabrizzo in Light in the Piazza, and Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore. Michael has also been a regular soloist in the greater Philadelphia area in such works as Orff’s Carmina Burana, Handel’s Messiah, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Mozart’s Requiem & Coronation Mass, and Puccini’s Gloria. He has been a recipient of the Brian Dumbchik Award, the Dick Curry Scholarship, the Linda A Montegna Endowment Scholarship Fund, and was a VFCC Premier Vocalist. Michael has been part of the Philadelphia Singers Chorale, the Ambler Chorale Society (soloist), and the St. Johns Providence Chamber Orchestra & Choir (soloist). He will perform the role of Guillot in Peabody’s upcoming production of Manon.