Carmina Burana

China cracks down on Western sacred classics

A British newspaper is reporting that Chinese authorities are banning or tightening controls on performances of sacred classics such as Handel's Messiah and Mozart's Requiem.  Even Carmina Burana has fallen under suspicion.  (The Rochester Oratorio Society's repertoire came under Chinese scrutiny over the summer.  Only a few weeks before the group's trip to China, conductor Eric Townell got an e-mail saying all of the music had to be vetted.  His strategy?  He sent translations with the word "Lord" spelled with a small "l" in hopes authorities might miss it.)   Read the article here.

Feedback

Being able to take constructive criticism well is a gift.  Especially in publishing and broadcasting, feedback often feels personal, and no matter how reasonably it’s delivered it can reduce one to a quivering, gelatinous mass .

In the radio business, the general rule is every single comment from a listener probably represents what hundreds of others think, too.  Good and bad.  For the most part, the radio program managers I know take listeners pretty seriously.

Criticism from peers sounds even more loudly.  So when the Public Radio Program Directors Association released contest judges’ reactions to a piece I produced, I braced myself.

Carmina Burana, page 1

My score of Carmina Burana is pretty gross. Coffee-stained, marked up, dog-eared. Once I left it on the kitchen counter and made enchiladas, so it even sports a few tomato stains. I’ve been using it for about a decade, and I think I’ve performed Carl Orff's work about eight times.

Maybe I’ll trade it in someday and start with a fresh copy. But for now, this one is a well-loved map of a favorite country. A smutronstalle. A wild strawberry place.

I sang Carmina Burana with the Rochester Phil and Rochester Oratorio Society last May, and that concert will air on Monday, September 1st at 8:00 p.m. on Classical 91.5 FM.

Being a radiohead, I love the sound of sound, you know? Recorded sound. In this case, I admit the broadcast has nothing on the live experience. But it’s still worth a listen.

Weekend Update


Monday night, June 9th, the RPO plays Métaboles (Metamorphoses) by the living French composer Henri Dutilleux.

“In the conception of this work,” Dutilleux wrote, “the composer never ceased to dream of the mysterious and compelling realm of eternal metamorphosis. The spirit and the form of the music find their origins in an intense contemplation of nature.”

Hear it Monday at 8:00 p.m. on Classical 91.5 FM, 90.3 or streaming.

Total Re-Carmina

I was just delivered a copy of the RPO’s performance of Carmina Burana! I’m almost afraid to listen to it.

RPO principal flutist Rebecca Gilbert once told me she put off hearing recordings of herself in live performances, especially ones that went well. Said she’d rather hold onto her memory.

I think I know what she means. But I'll listen anyway and report back.

Right Down the Fairway

In an earlier post, I wondered if the RPO’s Carmina Burana would have the proper impact, given the acoustics of the Eastman. Well, I’m pleased to report that it was loud enough, at least it was in the center of the 11th row. During the week leading up to the show, I wanted to find out more about the work so I went online. Brenda Tremblay’s interview with Christopher Seaman was great, but Alex Ross was less helpful. I searched his blog and unfortunately clicked on a link he provided to a “toweringly brilliant” English translation.

The Sound and the Fury

O Fortuna! Kodak’s ten million dollar gift earmarked for renovations to Eastman Theatre have sparked two debates. The first has to do with the future renaming of the space “Kodak Hall.” The second centers on whether renovations, scheduled for this summer and next, will actually improve the sound of music.

The morning after the Rochester Philharmonic and Oratorio Society performed Carmina Burana, two rather technical e-mails on the subject landed in my box. They are reprinted below the line.

Party like it's 1499

Sex is yummy, drinking is fun, and we’re all gonna die, so party like it’s 1499. That’s the basic message in Orff’s Carmina Burana. Since it comes wrapped in Latin, you get a veneer of respectability. Click here to hear conductor Christopher Seaman talk about Carmina and the womanizer that inspired composer Richard Strauss. You’ll also hear Christopher's advice for the pure of heart attending next week’s exciting, final RPO concert of the season.

Wheel of Fortune

Update: The New York Times has eliminated five full-time jobs in the culture department. One name stands out -- that of long-serving and much-beleaguered classical critic Bernard Holland. He's taken a buyout and is on his way out. His last day will be May 23rd. Read more.

Honey sweetness

The Rochester Oratorio Society is rehearsing Carmina Burana, the secular cantata by Carl Off, composed in the 1930’s. It's based on a thirteenth century manuscript discovered in a Bavarian monastery. Beloved by singers and derided by critics for its lack of polyphony, Carmina celebrates spring, sex, love, and drinking, all while bemoaning the vagaries of fate. It’s fun stuff. In the upcoming May performance, the conductor has decided to use the “Coro Piccolo,” that is, to have a small chorus sing some of the sections instead of the full choir singing everything. This doesn’t please those left out, and during last night’s rehearsal, a few confessed to feeling resentful. “I KNOW that part,” said one soprano chosen to sit out during the small chorus sections.