Sunday, April 26, 2009

Carmina Burana

The Vallejo Symphony scored again last night with a blockbuster production of one of my favorite symphonic choral works - Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. This incredible work came into my life during my first year of college. It totally blew me away at that time, and it totally blew me away last night. The work is scored for an enormous orchestra with percussion instruments up the wazoo, and features a large chorus and three soloists. Wildly syncopated rhythms, almost frantic tempos, and near-manic percussion passages, interspersed with soft, gently lyrical sections, make this work one of the most sensual and visceral in the entire concert repertoire. The lyrics... which originate in a manuscript of 12th century poetry, and written primarily in medieval Latin, with a smattering of medieval French and German, present a distinct challenge to an amateur chorus, but the combined members of the Solano and Vallejo Choral Societies, the Solano College Chamber Choir, and the St. Vincent's Children's choir covered themselves with glory, executing the strange, tongue-tying text with obviously well-trained dexterity. I'm sure some of the audience got more than they'd bargained for as Maestro Ramadannof explained the text of the poems; which were written by an itinerate, but well-educated, band of former clerics and rowdy students whose minds were clearly occupied by more worldly and carnal pleasures than the church had to offer. Many of the songs concern drinking, love, gambling, and sexual exploits, expressed in some pretty explicit language, all tied together by an unsentimental acceptance of the vagaries of fortune and the inevitability of man’s submission to his fate. Heady stuff! Overall, it was a stupendous experience - the only unfortunate aspect being that a shitload of work was involved in its preparation for only one performance. It deserved to be heard by more than just one audience.

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