Arts & Culture

Review: Hall Ensemble Oktoberfest concert at BRIT

The Hall Ensemble
The Hall Ensemble

One thing the Hall Ensemble is not is predictable. Oh, it plays music by the likes of Mozart and Beethoven, but that’s almost always offset by pieces you’re surprised to hear in a recital of classical music.

For instance, Tuesday night’s Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit. The title may not ring a bell with you, but rest assured you’ve heard the music before. It’s probably the world’s most famous drinking song, much sung during Oktoberfest.

Its appearance in the atrium of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) was a signal that this was the beginning of the Oktoberfest part of the program.

This meant an audience singalong, not only of Ein Prosit, etc., but also of drinking songs (or Trinklieder) by Schubert and Beethoven.

The arranger was Kevin Hall, principal bassoonist of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and adroit transferor of music from one idiom to another. In this case, the drinking songs were given to two violins (Jennifer Chang and Izumi Lund), viola (Aleksandra Holowka), cello (Karen Hall) and bassoon (Kevin Hall) in addition to the audience.

It was all in good fun, and the audience joined in with gusto. The song leader, by the way, was David Robinson, president of the ensemble’s board of directors.

The songs by Beethoven and Schubert were a shade more on the solemn side than Ein Prosit. Kevin Hall saw in them a kinship with country and western songs about cheatin’ women: “They’re about pain and loss — ‘Come have a drink with me, buddy’.”

One non-Hall arrangement was celebratory. This was Johann Strauss II’s Voices of Spring. Two works were presented in forms originating in their creators’ lifetimes. These were Mozart’s Sonata for Bassoon and Cello, K. 292, and Carl Maria von Weber’s Andante and Hungarian Rondo, Opus 35. The latter, especially, gave Kevin Hall an opportunity to display impressive virtuosity.

The one orthodox work of the evening was Beethoven’s String Quartet in C minor, Opus 18, No. 4. Chang, Izumi, Holowka and Karen Hall gave it a winning performance.

Incidentally, there was some rearrangement of seating from the Hall Ensemble’s last program in the atrium. Now there are better sightlines, achieved without disturbing the space’s fine acoustics.