Powerful stuff: the Elizabeth Krehm Memorial ConcertReview
Last night’s Elizabeth Krehm Memorial Concert at Metropolitan United Church was a grand, cathartic experience. Elizabeth Krehm passed away in 2012, after spending a month in St. Michael’s Hospital Intensive Care Unit; since 2013, the Krehm family has been holding benefit concerts, donating 100% of the money raised to the ICU in Elizabeth Krehm’s name. This year was Mahler’s 2nd, his “Resurrection” Symphony, with Evan Mitchell leading the Canzona Chamber Players Orchestra, the Pax Christi Chorale, and soloists Michèle Bogdanowicz and Rachel Krehm.
I’ve had an embarrassment of riches when it comes to Mahler lately, having seen the TSO play his 4th Symphony last week. Mahler symphonies are something that can only be presented on an impressive, epic scale; though the orchestra was pared down, I didn’t miss any of the enormous palate of sound in the Metropolitan United Church’s beautiful acoustic. I’d not heard this symphony in a long, long time, but knowing an ounce of Mahler can be enough to get you hooked on anything else he writes. The orchestration is transparent, almost sparse, but really conversational between strings, winds, and brass. Those amazing harmonic suspensions, melodies that sound like they’ve been around forever, folk-like portamentos in the strings, they pull you in with their familiarity; if you let yourself, you can sink into a sort of trance and let the huge size of this music wash over you.
Mitchell was impressive at the podium; he was in no rush to let this work unfold. The Canzona Chamber Players Orchestra sounded beautiful, particularly the colours in the strings. I loved how they played with the puff-of-smoke ending to the first movement, the oddities of the third movement, and impossibly wide range of dynamics. The Pax Christi Chorale made an impact with their incredible music; their first sound comes out of silence and lots of anticipation in the final movement.
For the last two movements, mezzo-soprano Michèle Bogdanowicz and soprano Rachel Krehm joined the orchestra, and I got emotional. They both sounded fantastic, and they made beautiful work of the texts they sing, the first from Des Knaben Wunderhorn and the second a text by Federich Klopstock and Mahler himself. There’s an amazing moment in the final movement where the chorus is singing about the dead, and how they will find eternal life. Rachel Krehm joins the chorus for the words “Uns win, die starben,” or “Us, who have died.” It’s stunning writing, and at this particular concert, it seemed that Rachel was singing right to her sister, Elizabeth. Hence, my personal waterworks.
Congratulations, all, on a gorgeous tribute and helping a great cause. If you missed the concert, and you’d still like to support the St. Michael’s Hospital ICU, you can send your donations right here.