On Thursday evening, conductor William Boughton led the New Haven Symphony Orchestra and three choirs in a powerful classical masterpiece. The concert’s program, which featured Carl Maria von Weber’s “Oberon Overture” and excerpts from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “The Sleeping Beauty” ballet, culminated with the tour de force “Carmina Burana” by 20th-century German composer Carl Orff.
This concert season marks Boughton’s last as NHSO’s music director. This second performance of the season — which featured a total of 360 voices from the Chorus of Westerly, the Fairfield County Chorale and the New Haven Chorale for the Orff composition — was what Boughton called “a celebratory concert of bringing all these people together.” Boughton explained that through this program, he aimed to showcase the strong relationships the NHSO has built with choirs in the community.
“It’s a popular program of well-loved pieces,” said Boughton.
Violinist Artemis Simerson, NHSO’s concertmaster, echoed this sentiment.
“The program is great,” Simerson said. “It’s an audience pleaser, that’s for sure.”
Premiered in 1890 during classical music’s Romantic era, Tchaikovsky’s “The Sleeping Beauty” ballet gained contemporary recognition following its use in Disney’s 1959 animated film by the same name. The excerpts performed last night drew from well-known movements, making the program familiar from the start.
The program concluded with “Carmina Burana,” which Simerson described as a “one-of-a-kind piece” that audiences are “crazy about.”
Simerson noted that “Carmina Burana” is the only well-known piece that Orff wrote. The dramatic movement titled “O Fortuna” has become a popular music selection for the silver screen, making its first mainstream appearance in the 1981 John Boorman film “Excalibur.” The movement was later used in a range of cinematic settings for films including “The General’s Daughter” and “Cheaper by the Dozen.”
Boughton said that the process of coordinating an orchestra of nearly 70 instrumentalists and 360 singers was “something of a nightmare” for him and the NHSO’s managing team. He noted that the most challenging part of the rehearsal process was the language of the text. “Carmina Burana” includes a mixture of German and Latin, making the coordination of pronunciation with hundreds of singers a difficult task.
Simerson said that Thursday’s entire program was “exciting from the very first note to the last note.”
“It’s the first time I’ve ever been able to see something like this,” said audience member Amanda Arango.
As a student at the University of New Haven, Arango has free access to all NHSO concerts, along with children and families with a member in active war.
“It’s really awesome to see what the symphony does with the community,” she said. “It’s really for anyone.”
Last night’s performance was the first time NHSO’s Institutional Giving Manager Charity Clark heard the orchestra perform from within Woolsey Hall. She said that she is proud to work for an orchestra with such “high artistic quality” that “brings wonderful music to New Haven.”
This year, the NHSO celebrates its 125th anniversary, making it the fourth oldest professional orchestra in America.
Allison Park | email@example.com .