a shamelessly sensual treat for the ears


After the artistic freeze of the first pandemic year and the only partial thaw of 2021, it is a joy to see the Edinburgh International Festival come back strong with a full musical program, launched with an opening concert which was a treat shamelessly sensual for the ears.

However, some might say that putting Respighi’s Pines of Rome side-by-side with Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana gave the evening more than a fascist shock. Respighi’s first three musical postcards of Rome’s characteristic tree are innocent enough, but the swelling march of the fourth, which evokes “the consular army marching towards the Sacred Way”, reminds some listeners of Mussolini’s dreams of restored Italian grandeur.

As for Carmina Burana, Carl Orff’s staging of often bawdy medieval Latin and German texts, the music is often damned for being shamelessly repetitive (true) and the composer for being an abominable s___ (also true) who was also a Nazi (not true, but Nazi critics loved Carmina Burana’s “healthy optimism”).

I must confess that as I sat pinned to my seat by these two jaw-dropping performances, I thought both works were masterpieces. Part of it was the super-bright acoustics of Usher Hall, which always come as a shock after the sound dampening of Albert Hall, but more important was the sheer exuberance of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Donald Runnicles, which matched the exuberance of the music. energy. And also the attention to detail which illuminated certain aspects of the music in an interesting way, such as the surprising “oriental” sinuosity of the beginning of this triumphal march.

The orchestra was also wonderfully alive at Carmina Burana, but what really grabbed my ear was the fabulous Edinburgh Festival Choir, which once again sounded like simply the best choral society in the country. Not to be outdone were the girls from the NYCOS National Girl’s Choir, vernacularly fresh in “Amor volat undique” (Love flies everywhere), and the three excellent soloists.

South African tenor Sunnyboy Dladla brought the right desperate pathos to the swan song, spinning helplessly on the roasting spit. As for baritone Thomas Lehman and soprano Meechot Marrero, their fun and steamy duets generated quite a bit of erotic heat. All in all, it was a tremendous affirmation of life force, which came as a tonic in these troubled times.



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