Come and hear what the composer didn’t want you to hear. Saint-Saëns suppressed all but one movement of The Carnival of the Animals during his lifetime, afraid that its madcap humour would trivialise his reputation. Now his dancing tortoise (double bass), his dying swan (cello) and shimmy-shaking skeleton (xylophone) are loved the world over, as is Carl Orff’s massive and ever-popular choral work Carmina Burana, famous for its use in hundreds of adverts and films.
Review by David Parry-Smith
Director of Music, St Mary the Virgin, Linton
Saturday night's concert at Saffron Hall was a sell out and those lucky enough to secure a seat were treated to a thrilling evening of music making.
Janet Wheeler's directing of the Saffron Walden Choral Society's performance of Carl Orff's cantata "Carmina Burana" was a real tour de force. Well known as a musical inspiration to films and TV adverts, Carmina Burana is worthy of more attention - particularly as the selection of poems set by Orff celebrates the love, light, joy and exuberance of life in a unique way.
The chorus were incisive and persuasive in the familiar opening and closing wheel of fortune sections. The high voices capably ascended the extreme heights where required in the more lyrical movements and the gentlemen of the chorus characterised their declamatory sections convincingly.
The young singers of SignuptoSing enthusiastically supported a number of sections with clear and ringing tone, excelling in the ravishing antiphonal number ("Amor volat") they shared with soprano Jeni Bern.
The lineup of soloists (including additionally tenor Mark le Brocq and baritone Alexander Robin Baker) engaged with the audience at times in an operatic style. Highly appropriate for this work, originally written for the opera house. The Chameleon Arts Orchestra clearly revelled in the full orchestration (including two pianos, brass, woodwind and an extensive percussion section as well as strings).
The first part of the concert consisted of Saint-Saëns "Carnival of the animals" in which highlights included a particularly graceful swan (played by an unnamed cellist). And if you ever wanted to hear scales practiced with more aplomb, Saint-Saëns skit at the expense of pianists was well worthwhile. Verses by Ogden Nash punctuated the performance, narrated with verve by Jeremy Nicholas. A 5-star evening.