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Carmina Burana at Birmingham Symphony Hall

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by dpm (subscribe)
dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Choral work packs a punch
Carl Orff's Carmina Burana is a musical setting of a series of 13th century songs discovered in a Bavarian monastery whose subject matter is anything but sacred. With themes ranging from spring as a season of fruitfulness to the drunken antics of the monks, they are a snapshot of life all those centuries ago.

Most familiar of the songs is O Fortuna which tops and tails the work and has been used in countless television programmes and advertisements. Often heard in isolation, O Fortuna is without a doubt packed with showmanship as it compares fate to a wheel that rises and falls. But it's when you hear the complete Carmina Burana that you respond to the real genius of the piece as it winds its way through dancing peasants, cheeky abbots and finally the powerful hand of fate.

Carmina Burana
O Fortuna

Conducted by Adrian Lucas at Birmingham's Symphony Hall, London Concert Orchestra's performance reflected all these nuances of Orff's work, ensuring a perfect balance of light and shade. Baritone William Dazeley brought the drama of the piece to the fore with his sparkling rendition of Ego sum abbas (I am the abbot) in which he acted the part of the drunken clergyman to the tee. Soprano Ailish Tynan was also full of character as she belted out the stunning Dulcissime (Sweetest One) while tenor Oliver Johnston perfectly caught the lament of the dying bird in Cignus ustus cantat (The Roast Swan).

The chorus was provided by City of Birmingham Choir and the Quiristers of Winchester College and although it wasn't the largest chorus I've seen perform Carmina they certainly gave it plenty of punch.

The programme began with Richard Wagner's joyful Prelude to Act III from his opera Lohengrin. Short but incredibly powerful it gives full range to the brass section as the opera leads into what is expected to be a wedding feast.

And sandwiched in-between was Camille Saint-Saens' mighty Symphony No 3, his Organ Symphony. One of Saint-Saens' most popular works, the piece passes the baton back and forth between the organ and the orchestra beautifully with some delightful touches of gentle melody, thundering organ solos and a triumphant finale.

Not surprisingly, in the light of the coronavirus, there were empty seats in the house but those who joined the audience were treated to a wonderful programme performed with panache.

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Why? Bringing a classic to life
When: 14 March 2020
Phone: 0121 780 3333
Where: Birmingham Symphony Hall
Cost: From 19.50
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