Thrilling nights: Szymanowski & Orff with the TSOReview
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra finished up their Decades Project last night by presenting two masterworks: Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No. 2 and Orff’s main d’oeuvre Carmina Burana.
Szymanowski’s Concerto was played by violin virtuoso Nicola Benedetti. She played the the devilishly difficult piece with a warm sounds and the clearest of fingerings and bowings. The score is very lush and cinematic and Benedetti’s sound carried over the whole orchestra from the Gariel Stradivarius she played. It was something remarkable to see a performer keep an entire audience completely engaged all while having their heads bowed down over their instruments. It was a remarkable lesson in stage presence and charisma.
After the pause, we were treated to one of my favourite oratorios - albeit it a pretty secular one.
Joining forces with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir under Noel Edison, The Toronto Children’s Chorus under Elise Bradley, and soloists, soprano Aline Kutan, baritone Phillip Addis, and countertenor Daniel Taylor, the TSO brought the house down with their stylish and engrossing performance.
The TSO played both scores beautifully. With sensitivity to soloists (Benedetti included) they brought all the volatility and humanity to these two scores - something that was prevalent in the writing of the 1930s - to the forefront with skill and unparalleled technique.
Countertenor Daniel Taylor brought us a Roasting Swan I won’t soon forget. His deadpan delivery (and flawless technique) of the swan’s inner monologue as he’s roasted an carved at the tavern. It was equal parts beautiful, hilarious, and poignant. As the drunken Abbott and the lover, Addis covered the remarkable range prescribed by Orff with skill and panache. He was charming, and debonair and sang with skill and grace. It was Kutan, however, that had me enthralled. Her light, yet creamy, soprano sailed through the top of Orff’s apogees like few things I’ve ever heard before. The clarity of her upper extension is breathtaking. Undoubtedly, the stars of the evening were the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the Toronto Children’s Chorus. A group of around 160 singers all-told, they sang cleanly, precisely, artistically, and most importantly uniformly through all 25 movements. Even their diction, in a hall that’s known for devouring consonants was crisp and clear, their O Fortuna was thrilling and I could have listened to it on repeat.
Especially since it’s one of my favourite choral compositions ever, it was a real treat to see Carmina Burana live and on this kind of scale. Congratulations to Peter Oundjian and all the musicians who brought us such an amazing array of concerts.
For a little chuckle: this is one of my favourite things the internet has ever produced: