Red hot voices show two sides of a marriage

Erica Crist

“REDefine. REDesign. REDiscover.” sounds like the slogan to a new nano-sized television, not an orchestra.

But Red { an orchestra } is determined to “REDefine orchestral programming. REDesign the concert experience. REDiscover classical music.”

With three seasons already under its belt, Red promises to push the classical music boundaries even farther with the first concert of its new season, “In Mahler’s Shadow.”

“Red programs are constructed around a strong performance idea,” wrote Jonathan Sheffer, the artistic director and conductor, in the concert’s program notes.

“It has nothing to do with listening to music in the car, or at home, but tries to make the case that going to a hall where a special program is being performed is a valuable and exciting thing to contemplate.”

The program idea for “In Mahler’s Shadow” is based on the controlling presence of Gustav Mahler and his relationship with Alma Moll. Through readings of Moll’s diary excerpts and her songs and a semi-staged theatrical production of Mahler’s “Songs of a Wayfarer,” Red will explore life in the shadow of a mysterious classical musician.

Mahler was perhaps the most celebrated artist in Vienna, Austria when he married Moll in the early 1900s. The merging of Mahler’s superstar status with the headstrong amateur Moll produced their first disagreement, and Moll was forced to choose between her dreams and her husband.

“He basically told her, ‘I don’t think you should pursue music composition anymore because it is a conflict on interest. Just focus on me and my career,'” said Linda Pavelka, the featured mezzo-soprano soloist. “That’s how society was at the time. Men were chauvinistic and women were invisible.”

Pavelka, who lived in Vienna, Austria, more than 100 years after Moll, said she felt people’s views of women were still skewed.

“If there was ever an issue with my apartment, the landlady refused to discuss it with me. She would always ask for my husband,” Pavelka said. “When we moved to New York it felt so good. People here saw us and consulted us, not just him.”

Ultimately, Moll sacrificed her music for love. But she held on to the songs she wrote before their marriage, and kept a detailed diary during their marriage.

The concert will begin with a Schoenberg arrangement of a Johann Strauss waltz to demonstrate the musical status quo of the time, said Gregory Keller, the stage director.

Then the audience will hear the words of Mahler and Moll, both early in their marriage and then years later, followed by the performance of six of Moll’s songs. After intermission there will be another Schoenberg arrangement. The concert will close with Mahler’s “Songs of a Wayfarer” that express the pain of romantic loss he feels when Moll finally leaves him.

“Between Act 1 and Act 2 you will get an idea of Alma’s music and Gustav’s music,” Keller said. “You will come out of the concert with a historical understanding and an emotional understanding of how powerful this music was at the time. Mahler was really the first rock star.”

The concluding “Songs of a Wayfarer” will not leave the audience feeling lonely and depressed, said David Moore, the featured baritone soloist.

“These songs are very clear and honest,” he said. “It takes you directly through Mahler’s emotional process. He doesn’t get over her, but he does find a moment of rest under a tree. The concert ends with you hearing him talk about something other than pain as he gets wrapped up in the beauty of nature.”

Moore said this concert is not going to be in the conventional setting, but rather a unique staging and acting of the pieces in a monodrama with orchestral accompaniment.

When the concert is over, Sheffer wrote that he hopes, “you will know something of Mahler’s world in order to explore its riches on your own.”

Red will continue presenting classical music in innovative ways until the end of its fourth season in February. In addition to “In Mahler’s Shadow” there will be two other concert programs in Cleveland’s Masonic Temple Auditorium.

“Each of our three concerts expresses a different emotion, is represented by different shades, projects different tones and speaks with a different voice,” Sheffer wrote.

On Dec. 8 and Dec. 10, people may see “A New Amahl (A Red Christmas).” It will be a contemporary production of the Christmas favorite, “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” in which dreams of an urban boy are brought to life by larger-than-life-sized puppets.

On Feb. 4, “Image/Sound/Image” will explore the relationship between music and visual images by presenting music created for clips from the movies “The Red Violin” and “On Valentine’s Day” and digital images created for Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 4” by artist Leo Villareal.

Contact ALL correspondent Erica Crist at [email protected].


Red { an orchestra }

What: All-ages concert

When? Saturday at 8 p.m.

Where? Masonic Temple Auditorium at 3615 Euclid Ave.

Cost: $15, $35, $65, $90, and $100