By Peter Korn on Nov 12, 2005
It is always a blast to sing Carmina burana with the San Francisco Symphony & Chorus. We just finished 4 nights of this under the baton of visiting conductor David Robertson (Music Director of the Saint Louis Symphony and Principal Guest Conductor of London's BBC Symphony). Soloists were soprano Patrica Petibon from France, baritone Christopher Maltman of England, and tenor/swan Richard Troxell of Maryland. We were joined by members of the San Francisco Girls Chorus and the Pacific Boychoir (who we will see again this season in the Mahler 8 performances in May & June).
This set of performances felt very fresh to me, with Maestro Robertson setting different tempi almost every night - and a lot more changes in tempo than I'm used to. Keeps you on your toes! Another new thing was the first of the new 6.5 series - a set of Friday evening concerts that start at 6:30pm instead of the usual 8pm, and include a live 'pre-concert lecture' with conductor, orchestra, and in this case chorus. We started the 'lecture' by singing the opening number, which Maestro Robertson then dissected a bit in various different ways, illustrating all of the complex things that Orff has the orchestra doing. He then had us sing and play a few excerpts and entire numbers - the orchestral "Tanz", verse 1 of "Chramer, gip die varwe mir", baritone Christopher Maltman's "Estuans interius", verse 1 of "Olim lacus colueram" (where we meet tenor Richard Troxell but before his goose gets cooked), the children's chorus with soprano Patrica Petibon singing "Amor volat undique", everyone together on "Tempus et iocundum", and again in "Ave formosissima" which the Maestro also dissected a bit.
With a piece like Carmina burana that we've sung so many times (and done well enough with to win a Grammy in 1993!), we were all comfortable enough with it to have a little fun. So first as a surprise for Chorus Director Vance George, and then again in our first rehersal with Maestro Robertson, we substitued the words to O Fortuna with those from the Carlton Draught "Big Ad" commercial. For a while we thought the Maestro would ask us to reprise that for the 'lecture', but instead he only made reference to it.