Sunday, November 7, 2010

Charlotte Symphony Orchestra - Carmina Burana

Wheel of Fortune from Carmina Burana Manuscript
As anyone who knows me is well aware, I am not the music lover in this family.  Scott is off at Peabody Conservatory studying the trumpet and Jay is a huge jazz lover and on the Board of WBGO, an all jazz radio station in Newark.   But I had the opportunity to go see the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra perform Orff's "Carmina Burana" last night and I am glad that I didn't miss it.  

First, a bit of info about the piece.  Carmine Burana is a collection of 254 medieval poems and dramatic texts that were written primarily in the 11th and 12th centuries by Goliards (clergy who wrote poems satirizing the Church).   They are primarily in Latin and Middle High German (all of which is Greek to me--groan, I couldn't resist!)  In the 1930s composer Carl Orff decided to set 24 of these poems to music.  There are actually 25 movements in the piece, as the opening movement, "O Fortuna" is repeated at the end (and trust me, you are happy to hear it again!)  "O Fortuna" is a piece that is often used in movies like The Lord of the Rings when something scary is about to happen.  You can hear the piece by clicking on this YouTube link:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crfdcYKd2RE  

There was some apprehension in the audience about whether the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra would be able to pull off a production of this magnitude.  Not only is the orchestral music complicated, but over 100 singers from the Fort Myers Symphonic Master Singers, EHarmonics, the Suncoast Chorale and the Charlotte Chorale Singers were required to mount this piece!  I personally went into the evening only knowing the basics about it and fully expected to grin and bear the evening.  The President of the Board of the CSO cautioned the audience before the show began to resist the impulse to clap between movements--just wait, she said, until Maestro Wada turns around and indicates that it is over.  I had to smile to myself when she said that, both because I was remembering times when I've clapped inappropriately (like at Scott's senior recital--how embarrassing!) and because I anticipated that I would only want to clap at the end because I was glad I had survived the evening.   I'm glad that she gave this warning as I had to stop myself on several occasions from bursting into applause.

The performance was truly incredible.  It captured me from the first moment of "O Fortuna" (really--listen to this movement on the YouTube link if you're not familiar with the piece and you will see how powerful it is).   The singing was remarkable and the musicians were more than up to the task.  There were 32 separate percussion instruments played by five different musicians during the course of the concert, including castanets and what sounded like sleigh bells.  Maestro Francis Wada is in his second season at the CSO and was a very physical and emotional conductor.   The response of the audience to the show was so overwhelming that they actually played "O Fortuna" as a third time for an encore!  I don't know what the rest of the musical season holds for the CSO, but this will definitely be a hard act to follow.

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