Review by Hawk Liu
Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra (BHSO)
CARL ORFF - CARMINA BURANA
Xi Wang - soprano
Melvin Tan - tenor
Alvin Tan - baritone
Adrian Tan - conductor
Esplanade Concert Hall
The BHSO has really come of age in this performance. What I hear is a notable ensemble becoming professional in terms of sound and precision. From the word 'Go', it is clockwork. There isn't any of the uncertainty of playing that I used to hear. There were many tricky bits and the orchestra handled them with confidence. Adrian Tan has chosen to take the piece on a quicker pace and that is general good for a piece that has many 'sleepy' movements. However, it does sometimes give the feeling of the piece being hurried along in some places that requires some room for rubato in transitions between sections within each movement. That is apparent already from the first movement. The last (repeat) movement of the work flows better.
The chorus comes up tops in terms of diction, albeit underpowered in loud orchestral sections. The children do add a bit of 'raw' sound when combined with the adults, but not in a bad way for this particular work. Xi Wang has the perfect instrument for the work - rich of tone, bright, sounding wonderful and joyous in her numbers. I do wish she has given a bit more time to linger on her phrases in the last Dulcissime in typical romantic fashion - can't help remembering how Kathleen Battle, in performance, sings with such joy and expression in the same piece. Alvin Tan has the near perfect sound for the work - pure yet having much capacity in expression. His second solo number did stretch the voice to its limit, being challenged by the crazy high notes and loud orchestral accompaniment. But that is understandable, given that it is Orff's intention to stretch the limits of the soloists.
As a visual performance, it is ravishing. From the soprano's radiant red dress, to the swan costume of the tenor, to the solo dancer and then the immaculate curtain call - it is lovely to watch. (Sloppy curtain calls can be irksome.)
The performance ends with a singalong of Christmas songs - very appropriate! Unfortunately, I notice that the wonderful diction of the chorus in the Carl Orff, does not carry over into the English of the Christmas songs ! :(