Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Carmina Burana

Boito: Prologue in the Heavens from Mefisotofele
Orff: Carmina Burana
Robert Porco, conductor

Astute -- possibly even merely literate -- readers will recognize that Thursday is not my typical Cleveland Orchestra evening. Tomorrow my father will be arriving for a weekend visit in anticipation of my 26th birthday (a week from Friday), and despite several attempts I haven't been able to convince him to plan on giving the Orchestra a whirl--while it's entirely possible that Friday or Saturday evening a visit to Severance will occur nonetheless (and my Visa bill notwithstanding), I wanted to make sure I didn't miss the weekend. The same readers will also note that I heard Carmina Burana last weekend in Akron.

Overall, I thought that Cleveland Orchestra's paring of Boito's Prologue with Orff's Carmina made more sense...but I think I preferred Bernstein's Fancy Free Ballet. The Prologue started rather dull, to my ear, and lifeless -- but came to life over the path of the 20-minute piece ending with an impressive display of power, yet still a bit acoustically dull.

For Carmina Burana, the sixth movement dance (Tanz) remained my favorite, but I think overall the Cleveland Orchestra version of the piece was more vibrant and the soloists punched through the music more clearly. Though the piece moved with reasonable dispatch the slower movements seemed to linger more than I would have liked, but I think it has been firmly established that anything slow is generally slower than I would like.

For both pieces it is doubtful that any more musicians or singers could have been fit on the Severance Hall stage without spilling over the apron; as it was the Children's Chorus -- delicately wedged in behind the violins stage right -- seemed to pour out onto the stage, and each time I thought that there couldn't possibly be another young singer one would pop out from back stage.

The size of the choruses and orchestra, didn't do anything but accentuate fantastic dynamic range varying from barely above a whisper (in Prologue) to every part of the body resonating in response to the musical force (in Carmina, particularly, "O fortuna!")

The only thing a bit disappointing is that the program did not include the text and translation for either work: The surtitles were effective (and flown at a reasonable height), and deciding between the two I would probably opt for surtitles, but it would have been nice to have both available.

Thanks to the Cleveland Orchestra Blog, I learned that part of the reason the piece sounds so familiar is apparently due to the fact that it figured fairly heavily in the Cavs' marketing strategy.

And now I return to my borderline compulsive mopping, vacuuming, and glass-cleaning in anticipation of an inbound flight. In the meantime, should you have an opportunity to hear any of the remaining performances of this weekend's program... I would encourage it.


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