Leeds Philharmonic Chorus
Leeds Town Hall
14th March 2015
Conductor: David Hill
Soprano: Sarah Tynan
Tenor: Daniel Norman
Baritone: William Dazeley
Carl Orff, the composer of Carmina Burana, the centre piece of this concert, spent much of his working life teaching children. Fitting then, that this was a concert perfect for a young person’s first taste of orchestral and choral live music. What could be more accessible than Dukas Sorcerer’s Apprentice (made famous in the Walt Disney film Fantasia) and Benjamin Britten’s ‘The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra’ that make up the first half. Music that is illustrative, colourful and immediately attractive.
Though the Dukas seems a little pedestrian and heavy-handed, the orchestra comes alive in the Britten; a piece that is intended to give each section and each instrument the chance to flourish, and they do just that, with some particularly lovely woodwind playing.
‘O Fortuna!’ opens the Carmina Burana, and the huge impact of choir and orchestra at full throttle has its intended impressive ‘call to attention’. As the piece progresses we negotiate its unusual musical palette; highly rhythmic, but harmonically unsophisticated – with folk-song-like drones – it paints the musical pictures with pleasing and catchy phrases based on ostinato repetitions.
We hear modernity in the influence of early Stravinsky (throwing aside classical ideas of musical development), alongside throwbacks of German romanticism; the Ländler comes to mind in its clog tapping rusticity and German singspiel in its bucolic passions and pastoral love – certainly this very accessible choral piece has proven to be popular with audiences all over the world.
David Hill negotiates the constantly evolving metre of this score with ease and mastery. The choir is beautifully prepared again by chorus master Richard Wilberforce. Great care is given to the clear annunciation of the Latin and Middle High German text to bring energy to the words as they take on their inherent percussive quality, though in some exposed moments one becomes aware of individual voices carrying the responsibility, and, otherwise wonderfully precise, there is a section where choir and baton goes slightly adrift.
It is tenor Daniel Norman who sets the tone when he almost dances his first aria (‘the roasted swan sings’). It also opens up the peculiarly irreverent nature of the whole piece, and allows the humour and eccentricity to emerge, though there is also a beauty, especially in the pure sounds of soprano Sarah Tynan who soars with ease and allure as she beckons her doting men. William Dazeley has a large and warm baritone sound which becomes more and more extravagant as the narrative progresses to the tavern and the desire for love.
The Leeds Cathedral Choir – made up of some eighty young people – make a lovely fresh yet sustained sound that does them credit. However, it could be said, that the naiveté of the concert seems a little darkened by the imbibing antics of this piece, where we sense there has been a disconcerting loss of innocence that belies the joyful end.