Marin Alsop Leads Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in Orff's Carmina Burana, June 6-9

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Performance includes Morgan State University Choir and Peabody Children’s Chorus.

Soprano Robin Johanssen

Carl Orff's Carmina Burana is a musical experience unlike any other...

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) Music Director Marin Alsop leads the BSO and soprano Robin Johannsen, tenor John Tessier and baritone Brian Mulligan in Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, on Thursday, June 6th at 8 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore, and Friday, June 7th and Saturday, June 8th at 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 9th at 3 p.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. The performance also features the BSO premiere of Christopher Rouse’s Ku-Ka-Ilimoku, as well as his Ogoun Badagris and Silvestre Revueltas’ Sensemayá. Please see below for complete program details.

Powerful and evocative, Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana is a musical experience unlike any other. Orff himself recognized the brilliance of the piece, writing to his publisher after its triumphant premiere in 1937, “everything I have written to date, and which you have, unfortunately, printed, can be destroyed. With Carmina Burana, my collected works begin.”

Carmina Burana truly was a new beginning for Orff, as it marked his transition from writing in an elaborate late-Romantic idiom to using only the purest and simplest forms of music. Orff wrote that “the simpler and more reduced to essentials a statement is, the more immediate and profound its effect.” With Carmina Burana, Orff drew from the earthly, primitive roots of music to create a piece filled with forceful rhythms and folkish melodies, in which he pushed his three soloists to the extreme limits of their ranges and brought listeners to the height of their emotional capacity.

Also, on the program is the BSO premiere of Baltimore composer Christopher Rouse’s Ku-Ka-Ilimoku, a percussion piece grounded in traditional Hawaiian music that was completed in 1978. The composition is named after and inspired by Ku, a powerful god in Hawaiian mythology, who takes the form of the god of war in this interpretation. The piece evokes the sounds of traditional Hawaiian instruments, but does so using Western percussion instruments, which bring energy and dynamism to this “savage, propulsive war dance.”

The second Rouse piece on the program, Ogoun Badagris, is another thrilling percussion work, which this time transports listeners to Haiti and into the world of Voodoo ritual. Rouse uses four conga drums, metal plates and sleigh bells to recreate Haitian musical elements and to carry out this “dance of appeasement,” which represents a ceremonial sacrifice to the violent Voodoo deity, Ogoun Badegris.

The performance also features Silvestre Revueltas’ Sensemayá, a piece inspired by Cuban writer Nicolás Guillén’s poem about the ritual killing of a snake in Negro-Cuban culture. Revueltas’ short tone poem is defined by obsessive and layered rhythms that recreate the raw and powerful nature of this ceremonial killing. The piece’s forceful use of rhythm is clearly influenced by Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, but its vigor and drama can also be attributed to Revueltas’ dual talent as a film composer.

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Laura Farmer
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
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