At Roy Thomson Hall last night for the TSO playing Carl Orff’s extravaganza Carmina Burana. It was fun. I don’t think it’s a piece to over-intellectualize. Big orchestra, enormous choir (Toronto Mendelssohn Choir augmented by the Toronto Youth Choir plus the Toronto Children’s Chorus), bawdy Latin lyrics and so on. It’s big, brash and mostly quite loud though I think Donald Runnicles did a fine job of balancing orchestra and voices, especially when the soloists or the children were singing.
The soloists were good too. The baritone has the most to do and he has to sing very high and very low. Norman Garrett was quite impressive at both ends of his range. The soprano mostly gets very high stuff to sing and Nicole Haslett sounded just fine with no squawking or unpleasant metallic tones. Basically all the tenor has to do is squawk. His one contribution is a brief comic interlude as a roasting swan. Sunnyboy Dladla will rarely have an easier pay cheque but he squawked effectively enough. The choirs were good too; especially the ladies who have some awkward sustained high notes which they managed expertly.
Before the interval we goy Korngold’s Violin Concerto in D Major with James Ehnes as soloist. Die Tote Stadt aside, I’ve never been much of a Korngold fan and this piece didn’t do anything to change that. The three movements all use themes from film scores with a bunch of violin fireworks added. It’s well crafted and probably fine if that’s your bag. certainly I have no complaints about Ehnes’ bravura performance or the pacing and balance delivered by Runnicles.
On a broader note, I think the TSO is on the up musically. I haven’t been going a lot recently but when I have it’s been enjoyable whereas a year or two ago I’d leave half the concerts wondering why I put myself through it. Let’s hope new chief dude Gustavo Gimeno can continue the trend. He’s conducting Sibelius, Stravinsky and Prokofiev next week so that should be a good litmus test.
There are two more chances to see Carmina Burana; Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm. The Gimeno concerts are next Friday and Saturday at 7.30pm and Sunday at 3pm.
Photo credits: Nick Wons