Los Angeles Music Preview: CARMINA BURANA & CHICHESTER PSALMS (Los Angeles Master Chorale on September 23 & 24, 2017, at Disney Hall)

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by Tony Frankel on August 30, 2017

in Music,Theater-Los Angeles


There are some entertainments that bear repeating: Los Angeles Master Chorale has visited Carl Orff’s pagan-fest, Carmina Burana, under each of their music directors, but the splendid, massive, exultant and squeaky-clean rendering four years ago under Grant Gershon made me want to toss off my clothes and march triumphantly towards my smoke-filled sky of destiny, flicking my flying fickle finger to Fate.

Well, hallelujah and hell, Gershon returns with 100 singers, a full orchestra, the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus and soloists So Young Park (soprano), Nicholas Phan (tenor), and Stephen Powell (baritone) to bring us this inspiring, moody and compelling piece for two performances only on September 23 and 24, 2017.

The 24 poems selected by the German composer for this popular 25-movement cantata are just a fraction of the entire Carmina Burana, the name applied to a collection of 254 medieval poems which survive via a manuscript discovered in 1803 at a Benedictine monastery in Bavaria. The poems are principally in Medieval Latin along with Middle High German and some Provençal. Written by students and clergy, the pieces are serious when dealing with the human condition and highly satirical when referencing abuses within the church; there are also erotic elegies and poems about imbibing and gambling.

The music is valued predominantly for its absolute fun, robust fervor, Stravinsky-esque faux-primitive rhythms, and boisterously immense choral sound—the pounding timpani makes this a particular feast for percussion lovers, too. The multi-hued score premiered in 1937 under Nazi rule in Frankfurt. “O Fortuna,” the gloriously thrilling movement that bookends the work, sounds like the theme to the Apocalypse (just in case “O Fortuna” sounds a bit too much like current politics, LAMC begins this concert with Leonard Bernstein’s hope-filled plea for brotherhood, Chichester Psalms). And then there’s that dejected swan whose goose is cooked in “Olim lacus colueram” (“Once I Lived on Lakes”). Oh, wait, you also get to hear adorable children singing about the pleasures and perils of drinking, gluttony and lust.

See? There’s something for everyone.

photos by Patrick Brown, Ken Hively and Arnaud Pyvka

Los Angeles Master Chorale
Carl Orff | Carmina Burana
Leornard Bernstein | Chichester Psalms
Walt Disney Concert Hall
September 23, 2017 at 2:00
September 24, 2017 at 7:00
(ListenUp! pre-concert talk one hour before performance)
for tickets, call 213-972-7282 or visit LAMC

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