There are not many voices like that of Richard Cassilly--a Heldentenor familiar in most of the world's great opera houses. This weekend, in the final program of the Theater Chamber Players' season, his voice was heard with pianist Dina Koston in the Terrace Theater of the Kennedy Center, an intimate space that could barely contain it comfortably. One might have wished for gentler nuances, considering the size of the hall, but one could hardly have hoped for a more exciting sound.
The program explored the end of romanticism in music and some of the styles that supplanted it. There were two neatly contrasted string sextets: Arnold Schoenberg's "Transfigured Night," which tests limits of intensity and chromaticism, and the cool, beautifully formed Sextet from "Capriccio," by Richard Strauss, which takes a step back toward classicism. Strauss also was represented by six songs from his youth, a half-century or more before "Capriccio."
There were two prime rarities. Cassilly sang three unpublished songs to texts by Rilke, composed by Kurt Weill at 22 when he had mastered the traditional Lieder style but had not yet found his own distinctive accent. Pina Carmirelli performed the world premiere of four movements from "Cantico" for unaccompanied violin by Barbara Kolb, a work of simple, dramatic gestures, closely tailored to this violinist's style and very effective in her hands.