Pathways to the past with TSO Carmina Burana

Leslie Barcza, barczablog.

Some concerts are put together so well that you can’t help admiring the clever curator, combining compositions.

Ai caramba I didn’t mean to be so alliterative.

But even so they made magic at Roy Thomson Hall tonight in a Toronto Symphony program featuring different approaches to the past. Korngold’s Violin Concerto (premiered in 1947) was followed by Orff’s Carmina Burana (premiered in 1936). To hear the pieces you might never guess which is the more recent composition. While Korngold wrote a three movement concerto using stunning melodic moments that the composer had employed previously in his films (his recent past, if you will), Orff set a series of medieval texts, in music that for me never gets old and never sounds old.  I feel as though the middle ages come vividly to life.  Each piece might be what we would identify as “popular”, whether in the lush melodies in the Korngold or the crowd-pleasing sounds of Orff’s piece.

I’ve heard a lot of versions of Carmina Burana and must recommend Runnicles’ distinctive interpretation. He connects the sections together rather than making big pauses, he pushes the tempi in the quicker passages, which is especially electrifying if you get your percussion & brass to opt for clear & crisp attacks. You won’t hear a better performance. This orchestra is in fine form coming towards the last few concerts of the year (this week & next).

Credit too must go to David Fallis, who has the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir matching Runnicles’ requirements for clarity. The text was pristine, the dynamics sometimes beautifully restrained except in the big climaxes, so that the performance had more shape than usual (more than last time certainly). The soft singing still had great intensity, diction and consonants and energy but without being loud all the time. As a result? Extraordinary. If I could go see every concert this week, I would.

Read the full review here.