LSM Newswire

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The VSO's Exciting Season Finale!

The VSOs Season Finale is a real barn-burner: Carl Orffs extraordinary masterpiece Carmina Burana is a musical setting of medieval poetry, from the sacred to the profane, from devotional love and piety to drinking songs and debauchery! It also happens to be one of the wildest live concert experiences you can possibly have. Combined with Stravinskys Symphony of Psalms, this concert is a magnificent Season Finale for Lower Mainland audiences, and a prelude to the excitement of the 2009/2010 Season!

Maestro Bramwell Tovey wields the baton in this massive concert that features soprano Laura Whalen, tenor Colin Ainsworth, baritone Hugh Russell, the Vancouver Bach Choir, and the Vancouver Bach Childrens Chorus. Concerts take place on Saturday and Monday, June 13th and 15th, 8pm at the Orpheum Theatre.

Carmina Burana was German composer Carl Orffs first and greatest success. It is a scenic cantata composed between 1935 and 1936 based on 24 of the poems found in the medieval collection of the same name. In 1803, at the monastery of Benediktbeuern in Upper Bavaria, musicologist J. A. Schmeller discovered a manuscript collection of lyrics, dating from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and eventually published it in 1847. The polite side of the collection includes six plays based on the Christmas, Passion and Easter mysteries. The earthier part contains some 200 drinking songs, love lyrics and recruiting songs.

When Orff came across the manuscript in 1935, he saw in it the ideal vehicle to express the kind of basic, uncomplicated human emotions he had in mind. Choosing two dozen poems from the collection, with the assistance of Michel Hofmann, he matched them with equally direct music, featuring simple yet striking rhythms, melodies and harmonies. Its not sophisticated, not intellectual, he wrote, and the themes of my work are themes that everyone knowsĶThere is a spiritual power behind my work, thats why it is accepted throughout the world. The premiere took place in Frankfurt on June 8, 1937.

The illuminated pictures that accompanied the original poems intrigued Orff virtually as much as the words. The cover showed luck as a revolving wheel, blindly governing peoples destinies. Orff begins his Carmina Burana with a grandiose hymn, Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi (Luck, Empress of the World), saluting this inscrutable, unpredictable concept. O Fortuna is one of the grandest statements in all of music, and has become famous world-wide. This extraordinary music from the beginning of Carmina Burana has been used in movies, commercials, and in sports arenas around the world as a trigger for creating feelings of drama and thrilling anticipation. Primo vere (In Springtime), follows. It deals, mostly in quiet, mysterious fashion, with the anticipated arrival of that season. Joy eventually breaks forth as Spring itself appears. It is celebrated in the section entitled Uf dem anger (On the Green).

The next segment, In Taberna (In the Tavern) salutes the juice of the grape in riotous fashion. The tenor soloist, singing in falsetto, takes the role of a swan roasting slowly and sadly on a spit. The baritone is an Abbot who launches the men of the choir into a rollicking ode to drink.

Cour damours (Court of Love) brings several of Orffs loveliest, most lyrical moments. The soprano solo In trutina (In the Balance) a glowing anticipation of fulfillment, is a particular highlight. After the ecstatic fervor of Blanziflor et Helena (Blanchefleur and Helen, the principal characters in a medieval romance), Orffs ode to luck returns, to close Carmina Burana as majestically as it began.

Igor Stravinskys Symphony of Psalms was commissioned in 1929 by conductor Serge Koussevitzky, for the fiftieth anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He used this opportunity to realize a project he had been considering for some time: a setting of selected Biblical Psalms for chorus and orchestra.

I began with Psalm 150, Stravinsky wrote. After finishing the fast-tempo sections, I went back to compose the first and second movementsĶThe first movement, Hear my prayer, O Lord, (Psalm 39) was composed in a state of religious and musical symbolism in any of my music before The Flood. It consists of an upside-down pyramid of fugues.

The Allegro in Psalm 150 (Finale of the Symphony) was inspired by a vision of Elijahs chariot climbing to the heavens; never before had I written anything quite so literal as the triplets for horns and piano to suggest the horses and chariot. In setting the words of this final hymn, I cared above all for the sounds of the syllables, and I have indulged my besetting pleasure of regulating prosody in my own way.

Stravinsky, who had become a regular communicant of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1926, inscribed the score of Symphony of Psalms To the Glory of God. The orchestration includes enlarged wind and brass sections, but excludes violins and violas.


Masterworks Diamond Series:

Carmina Burana!

Saturday & Monday, June 13 & 15, 8pm, Orpheum Theatre

Bramwell Tovey, conductor

Laura Whalen, soprano

Colin Ainsworth, tenor

Hugh Russell, baritone

Vancouver Bach Choir

Vancouver Bach Childrens Chorus

Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms

Orff Carmina Burana

Tickets $25 to $78.50 (Student, Senior and Subscriber discounts available)

Tickets available by phone at 604.876.3434 or online at

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