Carmina Burana. National Capital Orchestra with Canberra Choral Society. Saturday July 23, 2016; Llewellyn Hall, ANU School of Music.
Forget shivers down the spine – it was a full body-tingling experience for the audience in the modulation from the penultimate Blanziflor et Helena into the concluding Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi and Llewellyn Hall reverberated with the climactic chorus of Carmina Burana. Leonard Weiss kept the orchestra, choir and soloists in precise accord throughout this magnificent, demanding performance. Jeremy Tatchell stepped in to replace David Greco, who was indisposed, and performed with his customary strength and vocal agility, particularly in the solo In Taberna: Estuans interius.
Tobias Cole, wreathed in an evocative – perhaps also provocative – black feather boa, delivered his solo, Olim Lacus Colueram, with beauty and wit as well as inimitable style. Soprano Susannah Lawergren's solos were distinctive for their purity and the clarity of her highest notes, contrasting with the more lascivious lyrics of the chorus and baritone.
Singing from the chorus was robust and included many memorable sections: the sopranos executed their high entries on cue in Floret Silva and the male unaccompanied chorus in Sie Puer cum Puellula was impressive. Perhaps the real sensation of the evening were the Turner Trebles, a band of young voices who conducted themselves with aplomb and sang with confident clarity. There were lovely moments from the flutes, the bassoons and the extremely hard-working percussion.
In the first half of the evening, the opening work, Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin, offered some challenging opportunities for the brass and served to bring the orchestra into focus for Sean O'Boyle's River Symphony. Here the strings really asserted a warm, united sound and the cello and violin solos were welcome vignettes.
In a feast of choral and orchestral collaboration, River Symphony used the chorus and soloists in very different ways to Orff's more structured score. The choir blended their voices to create intersecting currents and a sense of an eternally flowing journey through time as well as landscape. The soprano soloists sung by Lawergren and Sarahlouise Owens as Mother and Child of the River were well matched in their duet, Memory of the Sea, Riverflow and the River of Life. I wish that I liked the composition more than I do, but I'm afraid the writing often seemed derivative and reminiscent of the music accompanying 1970s films. However, the performance surpassed the limitations of the score and the musicians created something unique. It is this overwhelming spirit of commitment to the music and to each other as performers that infused the National Capital Orchestra and Canberra Choral Societies' concert with integrity and guaranteed a great success.