The raw power of Karl Orff's popular masterpiece, Carmina Burana, made me ecstatic the first time I heard it on record quite a few years ago. Last night's performance at Koerner Hall by the Toronto Mendelssohn choir brought back that thrill and then some.
The British composer Jonathan Dove (b. 1959) has composed in a variety of fields, including film scores, orchestral and chamber music and choral music, but he’s maybe best known for his operas and opera adaptations. As well as The Adventures of Pinocchio and Mansfield Park, based on the novel by Jane Austen, Dove has also created a two-evening chamber adaptation of The Ring of the Nibelung by Richard Wagner.
If Tuesday night’s dress rehearsal is any indication, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s Wednesday performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana should make for a powerful evening of music.
The music from the most popular piece ever written by German composer Carl Orff (1895-1982) has been used in film and television and all sorts of advertising because of its raw power. Today, 75 years after its premiere in Frankfurt, Orff’s collection of 24 songs and poems found in a Benedictine abbey still packs a visceral punch.
The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s performance, the latest of many over its long history, added the beauty of three excellent soloists, some wonderfully subtle shaping by conductor and artistic director Noel Edison, and a nicely executed accompaniment by pianists James Bourne and Michel Ross as well as the TorQ Percussion Quartet.
Throughout his life, Healey Willan claimed he was born with the ability to read music. As a choir boy in England, he studied singing, piano, organ, harmony and counterpoint and by the age of eleven was conducting choir practices. Willan continued on the path of a church musician in London, delighted by his natural gift for music.