And check out this interesting 2012 NPR story by Scott Simon about Carmina Burana – http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6471891 – that includes some amusingly unorthodox Death Metal, Rap and Electronic versions – and a very interesting interview with Maestro Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (the first woman to hold this poisition with a major American orchestra, I gather.) Alsop conducted a new (2012) recording of Carmina Burana with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra on the Naxos label
DES Moines Register Symphony review: ‘Carmina Burana’
Symphony review: ‘Carmina Burana’
The audience got what it came for Saturday when the Des Moines Symphony and a mass choir delivered a rousing performance of Carl Orff’s blockbuster “Carmina Burana.” The nearly full house at the Des Moines Civic Center felt the visceral blast of 330-some musicians singing, playing instruments, and pounding on a drum the size of a small car.
The bodies on stage outnumbered the populations of more than 400 towns in Iowa.
So it’s a good thing those bodies had talent. They produced both the steamroller power of the work’s signature song, “O Fortuna” – made famous in countless movies and advertisements – as well as the earthier delights in the other two dozens songs about spring and love and drinking. (Orff set the music to a series of 13th century Latin poems he found in a secondhand book store.)
The orchestra has performed “Carmina” before, with guest conductors, but this was maestro Joseph Giunta’s first crack at it. He pulled it together well, with a strong sense of pacing and polished bombast. The score isn’t as technically difficult as some, but it takes a steady hand to get 330 people on the same page.
He had help from Drake University orchestra conductor Akira Mori, who prepared his students to play with the pros, and Drake choral conductors Aimee Beckmann-Collier and Linda Vanderpool, who rehearsed four different university choirs, including one that includes community voices. Barbara Sletto coached the Heartland Youth Choir, which held its own even amid the roar.
The women’s voices produced a supple, lively tone in the early flirty passages (“Salesman! Give me colored paint to paint my cheeks”) but the men one-upped them with a precisely rendered round of drinking songs. Their unaccompanied section (“If a boy and girl linger together”) was especially good.
The dramatically gifted baritone Robert Orth carried most of the solos with natural ease, as if Latin was his first language. He struggled at times to be heard but still managed to make himself understood, even wobbling back and forth during his bit as a drunken priest.
The talented soprano Carrie Ellen Giunta, who happens to be married to the conductor, sang best during her highest and most exposed solo (“Sweetest boy”). And the tenor Christopher Pfund made the most of his brief appearance as a swan – or former swan – lamenting its life while roasting on a spit. It’s one of the tenor’s specialities; he’s sung the role more than 150 times on three continents.
“Carmina” was written in 1937, the same year the Des Moines Symphony began as a combined ensemble of Drake and the community at large. Saturday’s concert (which repeats Sunday) honored that connection further by opening with a performance of Brahms’ “Academic Overture,” again with a mix of students and pros. It sounded as sunny as anything on the university’s admissions brochures.