`Carmina Burana' delivered with gusto

Annapolis: Two choruses and an orchestra combine their talents for a momentous performance at Maryland Hall.

Review

Arundel Live

November 20, 2003|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Annapolis Chorale's 190 singers were joined by three major soloists and the 50-member Annapolis Chamber Orchestra to fill Maryland Hall's stage to capacity Saturday, and when the 50-member Youth Chorus entered later, it spilled down the side stairs into the audience.

Their combined sound filled the hall with haunting melodies to form a momentous performance of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana.

Music director J. Ernest Green had the formidable task of balancing sound levels between the large chorus and orchestra - much more difficult in a live performance than in recording, where balance is controlled in the booth.

With his customary zest, Green delivered a reading that emphasized dynamic contrasts, coaxing highly charged performances from the orchestra, soloists and chorus while maintaining the primitive, pulsing raw energy in the often-frantic beat.

From the opening choral and orchestral blast of "O Fortuna" describing the wheel of fate turning until the theme reappeared in a final reprise, the music swept us into a feasting, drinking and loving celebration of springtime.

Choral highs included the sopranos singing of spring in "Ecce gratum" and the men delivering lightning-paced, near-riotous drinking songs in the song "In the Tavern."

In sharp contrast was the incredibly sweet, light sound of the Youth Chorus in "Amor volat - Cupid flies everywhere" adding a bright new dimension to the Annapolis Chorale.

In addition to these noteworthy choral passages were ravishing vocal duets with a shining solo bassoon, an agile flute and percussive drama heightening choral segments. The full orchestra was alternately lush and robust, light and dynamically awesome, sometimes seeming almost possessed by a Bacchanalian force.

A distinct operatic quality was enhanced by the trio of gifted soloists. Once again, baritone Ryan de Ryke proved that he has few peers in negotiating an immensely demanding vocal range, and he does so while maintaining a magnificent tone. His passionate "Dies nox et omnia" was seductively silky, culminating in an incredible high B.

Soprano Amy Cofield more than compensated for some brief pitch problems early in "Stetit puella" with a magical "Dulcissime" where she not only delivered a ravishing opening glissando but ended on a gorgeous high D.

Completing this extraordinary trio of soloists was tenor Andre Bierman in "Olim jacus colueram," another vocally demanding piece - this one about a roasted swan - with an extremely difficult tessatura that Bierman negotiated with ringing clarity.

At the conclusion of Carmina Burana, the entire audience seemed to rise on cue to offer the performers a well-deserved thunderous standing ovation.

Carmina Burana was preceded by an appropriate chamber music selection, Concerto for Viola in D Major, by 18th-century composer Karl Stamitz with viola soloist Jennifer Cline. A member of the National Symphony Orchestra since 1995, Kline displayed considerable artistry in her performance of this melodic work that was often reminiscent of Stamitz's contemporary Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

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