Spring arrived with a blaze of sunshine on the weekend and so it was fitting that the Collegium Symphonic Chorus performed Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. The 1934 choral work celebrates spring, revelry and lust in a riot of musical energy. The profane was paired with the sacred – a setting of the mass by Argentinean composer Ariel Ramirez – in a concert brimming with life.
Collegium was supplemented by the Hale/St Mary’s Cantate so Carmina Burana’s opening number ‘O Fortuna’ was delivered with blazing energy. In Orff’s dramatic setting of provocative thirteenth century Goliard poetry plainchant references are laced with Debussian harmonies and Stravinskian syncopations. The choir and soloists were backed by trumpets and underscored by the metronomic rhythm of two pianos and six percussionists. The choir (under the brisk conducting of Margaret Pride) sang about meadows of flowers, a drunk abbot, a roasting swan and the delight of lost chastity with enthusiasm. The high notes were often a stretch for the soprano section but the work was dramatically gripping.
Within this spicy mix soprano soloist Jennifer Barrington sparkled like a gem, her immaculate solos delivered with lingering sweetness. The searing intensity of tenor Jun Zhang’s depiction of a dying swan was a showstopper, his golden tone unfailingly beautiful. Baritone Matthew Tng had less substance although his vocal range was impressive.
The two male soloists featured again after interval in Ramirez’ Misa Criolla. Ramirez’ setting of the mass drew on the appealing melodies and rhythms of Argentinean folk music; think Buena Vista Social Club and the Leningrad Cowboys meet Catholic liturgy. Perth Argentinean band Ackon Cahuak provided the accompaniment of charango (a five stringed guitar), guitar, pan pipes, piano and percussion. The band infused the piece with a hip-swaying groove so that a dusty cowboy or a smoky Cuban club came to mind more often than a stained glass window. The choir transitioned well into the South American folk idiom but were tiring by the end. The colloquial spirituality of the mass sat well alongside Orff’s elevated bawdiness and provided a fascinating contrast.
This review copyright The West Australian 2014.