Daniel Hege and the Wichita Symphony Orchestra presented Carl Orff’s colorful aural tableau “Carmina Burana” in the Century II Concert Hall on Friday evening. This performance was in the Orchestra’s popular “Blue Jeans” format; the performers were casually attired and Hege engaged the audience during the performance with illuminating commentary.
“Carmina Burana” is a setting of 24 medieval poems which form a broad ranging commentary on life and human nature. This work is by far Orff’s most enduring compositions; subsequent pieces by Orff developed many of the same concepts and are more operatic, but they have never become part of the repertory. “Carmina Burana” calls for multiple choruses, three soloists and a large symphony orchestra including a substantial battery of percussion.
All performers accorded themselves well in Friday evening’s performance which included the Friends University Singing Quakers, along with the Wichita Symphony Chorus and the Wichita Community Children’s Choir. The choruses were well rehearsed and powerful. The soloists each possessed splendid voices. Baritone Dan Kempson had a wonderfully rich, yet strikingly clear tone. Tenor Matthew DiBattista captured the expressive nature of his one solo aria with spirit and personality. Soprano Monica Yuris demonstrated a scintillating technique projecting the highest tones with shimmering vigor. As performers, each soloist was charming and compelling.
Hege’s pacing of the piece was enjoyable, and the Orchestra handled the demands of the score well. Orff’s complex textures present many challenges. The power and precision of the brass and percussion sections did the piece great justice and the strings and woodwinds translated the notes into meaningful images.
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Each performance is an installment in the chronicle of the Orchestra’s development, and under Hege’s baton the group is doing excellent work. The Wichita Symphony Orchestra is a very high-caliber ensemble and Wichitans are fortunate to be able to attend their fine live performances. Many orchestras around the country are wrangling in the throes of turmoil, leaving their audiences waiting in limbo for the music. The WSO is not immune to the financial challenges that are hampering these other organizations, but they are resolutely going about the business of creating music. An orchestra does not exist in a vacuum, the members do not play simply for their own pleasure. The Wichita Symphony Orchestra exists to bring alive great music of all ages, bringing inspiration to all who hear.
“Carmina Burana” will be performed on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, along with Haydn’s “Symphony Number 90,” as part of the Orchestra’s Classical Series. Sunday the Bethel College Concert Choir will perform in the place of The Singing Quakers.