"Vienna Night" with the Orange County Pacific Symphony Chamber Players--featuring three works by three composers who "made their mark" in that city--proved to be long on effort and short on the Gemuetlichkeit that makes the city such a pleasure.
As performed Monday night in the South Coast Repertory main theater, the three works--denoting the beginning, heyday and twilight of Vienna's musical dominion--were made fussy by an intentness on the printed notes and by an emsemble made timid by the uncomfortable emotions these rather somber works evoke.
Mahler's "Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen" ("Songs of a Wayfarer") received the best treatment from the group, possibly because the players, as part of the Pacific Symphony, went over much of this music in their performance of the composer's First Symphony a month ago.
Baritone Donald Christensen certainly did his part to make the songs sparkle: His voice, while not easily and freely produced, is a highly flexible instrument, and some of his word-pointing and phrasing--especially in the pastoral "Ging heut' Morgens uebers Feld" ("Going This Morning Over the Field")--was intelligent and musical. In the uncredited arrangement for chamber group, the players held their own quite well, managing to make the song cycle viable in this intimate setting.