BU Takes Stage at Symphony Hall Tonight: Orchestra, Chorus perform Orff’s Carmina Burana

in CFA, Music
November 19th, 2012

Renowned composer Leopold Stokowski conducts the BU Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Chorus in the November 1954 East Coast premiere of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, the piece that leads the program for tonight’s CFA concert at Symphony Hall. Photo by Boston University Photography

Renowned composer Leopold Stokowski conducts the BU Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Chorus in the November 1954 East Coast premiere of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, the piece that leads the program for tonight’s CFA concert at Symphony Hall. Photo by Boston University Photography

 

German composer Carl Orff’s iconic 1936 choral work Carmina Burana is a lush, dramatic crowd-pleaser that is increasingly cannibalized by TV and Hollywood for its ability to raise goose bumps. The scenic cantata, a many-textured weave of 24 themes inspired by a trove of 13th-century poems, found its way into American concert repertoire thanks in part to the BU Symphony Orchestra and the BU Symphonic Chorus.

It was the College of Fine Arts that presented Carmina Burana’s East Coast premiere in 1954 under the direction of Leopold Stokowski, one of the 20th century’s renowned conductors. Tonight, 58 years later to the day, at Boston’s Symphony Hall, the orchestra and chorus—conducted by David Hoose—will reprise Orff’s masterpiece, along with a work by Edgard Varèse and the Boston premiere of Percy Grainger’s demanding, often rambunctious The Warriors.

“Most people are familiar with the opening movement of Carmina Burana through commercials and movies,” says soloist Lynn Eustis, a CFA associate professor of music, who has sung the cantata numerous times since 1999 and recorded a version in 2003. The work “is a joyous celebration of nature in its most primitive forms. The beauty of the quieter moments will probably surprise audience members.”

The performance also features the spirited voices of the Boston Children’s Chorus. The soloists, tenor Christopher MacRae (CFA’17) and baritone James Demler, a CFA assistant professor of music, perform “at the extremes of their vocal ranges,” says Eustis, who joined the CFA faculty this fall. One of Eustis’ doctoral students, MacRae transferred to BU with her from the University of North Texas. Eustis made her Carnegie Hall debut in Mozart’s Vesparae de Dominica in March 2010, but this is her first Symphony Hall performance.

Sometimes performed in costume, Carmina “is ritualistic theater, both Asian and Greek, with scenes like frozen poses,” says Hoose, a CFA professor of music and director of orchestral activities. “O, Fortuna,” the more familiar introductory section, “evokes the ever-fickle nature of fate, and Orff’s shifts from joy to anger, from optimism to despair,” injected with meditations on nature, drinking, and lust, culminate in a finale in which the work comes full circle, Hoose explains.

Written by Susan Seligson, BU Today. Read the complete article from BU Today.