Saturday, April 13, 2013

Cleveland Orchestra: Carl Orff's Carmina Burana

J.S. Bach: Concerto in A major for oboe d'amore and orchestra, BVW 1055 (Robert Walters, oboe d'amore)
Carl Orff: Carmina Burana, cantata for solo voices, choruses and orchestra (Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, Robert Porco, director; Cleveland Orchestra Children's Chorus, Ann Usher, director; Rebecca Nelsen, soprano; Nicholas Pahn, tenor; Stephen Powell, baritone)
James Feddeck, conductor.

After a week in Arizona preempted my attendance at last week's concert for some reason it felt like I had been absent for a particularly long time when I returned to Severance Hall tonight. I, did, however have the good fortune of having pre-purchased my ticket. Others approaching the, box office, not so fortunate were turned away with even the Standing Room only section completely sold out.

Still others in the lobby could be overheard remarking that that this was the second ticket they had purchased for this weekend's concerts as it warranted a second hearing.

Indeed, it was an amazing concert -- and for the first time, I found myself humming the epic chorus as I was leaving the hall.

The appetizer was a delightful and quick Concerto in A major -- the first time the Cleveland Orchestra has performed this bit of Bach. Orchestra member Robert Walters took the duties of soloist with the oboe d'amore. The first movement was a bit fanciful and floating, the second movement provided a darker, more punctuated scene -- almost as if slowly walking through a cemetery and pausing at each grave marker. The third movement had a sunnier disposition but was more grounded than the first movement.

The main course was unequivocally Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. While the Orchestra and it's chorus typically work well together, tonight's performance featured a seamless interface between the two, easily the most impressive choral performance I've heard. While I haven't been the biggest fan of James Feddeck's conducting in the past, tonight he handled the Orchestra and the Chorus as the precision instruments they are, just as cleanly accelerating to near light-speed as decelerating to a more contemplative speed.

Like my impression of Mr. Feddeck's conducting, I likewise have not often cared for the Orchestra's choice of soloists, but tonight I was thrilled, especially with the substantial presence Mr. Powell added as baritone soloist. Messrs Pahn and Powell injected some visual humor into the performance's Part Two, marking the first time I can recall hearing a substantial swath of the audience laughing during a performance. I also particularly enjoyed the instrumental Dance from the Uf dem Anger ("On the Lawn") section of Part One.

The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus had crystal clear projection from the loudest-of-louds to the quietest-of-quiet sections making it easily the easiest time I've had following the text and translation in the program.


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