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Published: Saturday, 2/2/2008

Symphony embraces Orff's orchestral color

BY SALLY VALLONGO
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Fortune smiled on the audience for last night's Classics V concert in the Peristyle, as the Toledo Symphony and resident conductor Chelsea Tipton II plus a heavenly host of singers delivered a splendid earful of Orff.

That's Carl Orff, the Munich-born composer who unveiled his master work, Carmina Burana, in 1937 and actually lived to see it embraced by the musical world. Last night was another big group hug for this monumental confluence of song and orchestral color.

With an enhanced symphony, singers from Bowling Green State University and Bowsher High School, and three fine soloists, the performance was solid, colorful, well-balanced, and exciting.

Coached by BGSU professors William Skoog and Mark Munson, and Bowsher choral director Karin Giffin, the large choir - sometimes divided into smaller sections - sang the lusty lyrics clearly and musically. With percussive consonants and crisp final sibilants, the delivery was so clean and unified as to condense the massed voices into a pure, refined vocal force.

Soloists Ilana Davidson, soprano; Daniel Snyder, tenor, and baritone Kevin McMillan truly inhabited their parts, infusing them with the spirit of the medieval monks who had penned these poems in praise of hedonism. Would that McMillan's rich and flexible baritone were able to project better, as some of his embellishments were lost in the accompaniment.

Tipton, praising the "community of musicians" who had made this special event possible, was a sensitive and no doubt inspiring leader for instrumentalists and vocalists alike. His triumph was to shape a seamless performance out of the dozens of sections between the same opening and closing number: "O, Fortuna."

Still, Orff wasn't the only German represented on this program. Principal second violinist Merwin Siu soloed in the symphony premiere of Karl Amadeus Hartmann's transcendent Concerto Funebre.

Hartmann, another Munich native and contemporary of Orff, created this hauntingly beautiful four-part work for violin and string orchestra in the opening months of WWII.

Organized as a dialogue, the work sets choral-like accompaniment by the orchestra against the solo violin's somber themes.

Siu imbued his line with rich tonality and played with restrained emotion, the better to maintain balance with the orchestra. How very contemporary Hartmann's thick, enhanced chords sounded, and how bold the composer was in shifting swiftly but smoothly from swaths of chords to the restless solo line.

The Toledo Symphony Classics V concert will repeat at 8 tonight in the Peristyle. Tomorrow, the symphony, choirs, and soloists will perform Carmina Burana at 3 p.m. For tickets, contact the symphony, 419-246-8000 or toledosymphony.com.

Contact Sally Vallongo at: svallongo@theblade.com.



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