Review: A Sensational Night of Music at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's CARMINA BURANA

By: Jun. 22, 2017
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The heart-pounding "O Fortuna" fills the Roy Thomson Hall to the brim with the sound of a full orchestra and over one hundred voices. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) presents the finale to their "Decades Project: 1930-1939", CARMINA BURANA by Carl Orff, featuring the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, the Toronto Children's Chorus and soloists Aline Kutan (soprano), Daniel Taylor (countertenor) and Phillip Addis (baritone). The evening also featured the world premiere of a TSO-commissioned piece by composer Pierre Simard, The Bastion: Sesquie for Canada's 150th and Karol Szymanowski's Violin Concerto No.2, Op.61 featuring soloist Nicola Benedetti (violin). The triple bill was a grand celebration of orchestral music, bringing the audience to their feet in enthusiastic applause.

Canadian composer Pierre Simard's The Bastion: Sesquie for Canada's 150th opened the evening. The piece is a celebration of the famous Nanaimo monument, The Bastion, capturing the "...nobility attached to such a standing witness of time's passing." (program note from composer) A hectic beginning resolves into a bright, brief and beautiful piece - Conductor Peter Oundjian joked with Simard, congratulating him on the refreshing aspects of playing a two-minute composition.

Szymanowski's Violin Concerto No.2 followed, showcasing the talented Nicola Benedetti on violin. Oundjian introduced the piece, stating, "The language is so beautiful, so rich - yet it has this impressionist quality to it." After a haunting introduction, the main theme is established in the strings, with each instrument borrowing and elaborating on the motif - creating a sense of familiarity with the listener. Benedetti is a powerhouse musician. During the solo section, her movements are sharp as she drags her bow down her instrument with force.

(L to R) Aline Kutan, Peter Oundjian, Phillip Addis, Daniel Taylor with the TSO and TMC. Photo credit: Jag Gundu

Following the suspense of watching over one hundred choir members enter the hall - Orff's CARMINA BURANA begins. "O Fortuna" may be one of the most popular pieces of classical music, but I can't recall if I've ever heard it sung with such incomparably crisp diction. Oundjian makes CARMINA BURANA extremely exciting in the way he drives the tempo and skillfully manipulates the work's dynamics. The work has a wonderful flow to it, adding to the excitement - some moments are serene and hushed, before being interrupted by jubilant fanfare. (The transition from "In trutina" to "Tempus best iocundum" comes to mind)

CARMINA BURANA provides a rare opportunity to hear one of Canada's most prominent countertenors, Daniel Taylor. His performance of "Olim lacus colueram" was comedic and well-sung but the work is the most challenging for the baritone. Phillip Addis navigates the requirements of the piece with ease, shifting between his registers with extreme flexibility. Orff is almost cruel to his baritone in the "Dies, nox et omnia" aria - demanding falsetto in one bar and then forcing the baritone to dip down to the base of his range in the next. Though cruel, Addis makes it sound lovely.

Soprano Aline Kutan's versatile coloratura voice is on display - from her controlled runs in "Stetit puella", to her magnificent collected sound in "In trutina". Kutan's flawless high B in "Dulcissime", mouth agape, with her soft palate reaching for the stars was one of the highlights of the evening.

CARMINA BURANA is an epic member of the classical canon. Framed by the intensity of the famous "O Fortuna", the work explores nature and the human condition, with songs of love, lust and gluttony. With an orchestra performing at the top of their game, the concert is not one to be missed. The word "sensational" is not being used lightly.


CARMINA BURANA is presented by BMO and Air Canada as part of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's "The Decades Project: 1930-1939" and runs through June 24, 2017 at the Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St., Toronto, ON

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

Conducted by Peter Oundjian

Violin Concert No. 2, Op. 61 by Karol Szymanowski features the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and violinist Nicola Benedetti

Carmina Burana by Carl Orff features the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, the Toronto Children's Chorus and soloists Aline Kutan (soprano), Daniel Taylor (countertenor) and Phillip Addis (baritone)

**Pierre Simard's The Bastion: Sesquie for Canada's 150th was performed exclusively on June 21, 2017**

(header photo credit: Jag Gundu)