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Music Review: Sarasota Orchestra Masterworks

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  • | 4:00 a.m. April 7, 2010
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The final Masterworks concert of Sarasota Orchestra’s season was titled “Seeing Music in Myth,” but looking at the program of Mozart’s beloved 40th symphony and Carl Orff’s erotic “Carmina Burana,” I “mithed” the myth. Sure, I could see it in the Orff, with his medieval monk-based texts, chromaticisms, profanities and magical allusions. But Mozart’s G minor Symphony? So, I went to the Orchestra’s artistic director and conductor, Leif Bjaland, and asked.

He said he saw the myth in the Mozart, “because of the incredibly modern and prescient language in the G minor symphony. It is almost like Mozart was looking into a crystal ball and seeing a fearful vision of the future.”

Aha! But, for me, the real revelation was in the music, because this was one of the warmest, most gracious, stylistic and lovingly played performances I’ve heard in a long time. Bjaland made this Mozart speak clearly and eloquently and used his excellent forces to show off their musicianship and fine techniques. Bjaland reined in his chamber forces, making the most of their ravishing string sound and gorgeous, transparent winds.

“Carmina Burana” is the best-known and most often performed trilogy of medieval-contemporary works for chorus, soloists and instruments. Unfortunately, there was no translation printed in the program, so the audience didn’t have a clue what anyone was singing about. Still, bass soloist Hugh Russell managed to get some laughs in his unusually dramatic rendition of the drunken priest; tenor Brad Diamond was able to convey the proper aroma of the roasted swan; and Serena Benedetti (daughter of Evangeline Benedetti, one of the first women to join the New York Philharmonic), offered appropriately beautiful sounds in the wickedly difficult soprano solos, from the low range of “In trutina” to the high D just before the finale.

The Sarasota Young Voices projected innocence and experience nicely, and the Key Chorale provided choral texture to the work.

— June LeBell


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