No Time for Chamber Music

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No Time for Chamber Music Review

by James Manheim

The title of this release comes from an ironic adoption of a remark by Luciano Berio, and indeed, the music here by the string nonet collectif9 may seem offhand and unpleasantly irreverent for some listeners. For others, and the album's commercial success suggests that they may be in the majority, this will be imaginative stuff, taking Mahler as a point of departure for new creative activity rather than bowing down before him. Whichever camp individual listeners may fall into, they are likely to agree on three points. First is that collectif9 does its job quite well, producing a large variety of sound from their instruments and using them to fill out the sonic details missing from Mahler's originals. As if to underline their skill, the group includes the Fantaisie à la manière de callot by composer Philippe Hersant for contrast, which places Mahler's melodies into a more conventional string canvas. Second, those melodies hold up well; no matter how sprawling Mahler's visions became, he was a fabulous composer of tunes, and those hold up here. Those tunes might be borrowed, in the case of "The Hunter's Funeral," from the Symphony No. 1 in D major ("Titan"), the tune is the one known in the francophone and anglophone worlds as Frère Jacques, fitted out with hunt sounds. A second inspiration here is a popular painting, and CD buyers get a copy. The third positive factor is that one has the sneaking feeling Mahler would have loved this, as it would have appealed to his own sense of irony and theatricality. Listen to the high-speed "Funeral March" from the Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor, introduced by an "un, deux, trois, quatre," and this will give an idea of one's reaction to the whole. Probably the music will be found fun at the least.

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