Music review: RSNO: Carmina Burana, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

The RSNO
The RSNO
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In a week that saw the weirdest sex scene ever in a new BBC TV drama, the libidinous medieval texts of Carmina Burana – a kind of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll fantasy for the 13th century – seemed like an innocent fumble in the bike shed. Not that anyone nowadays pays much attention to the words, a strange concoction of Latin and Middle High German. The orgiastic music by Carl Orff, filched for so many films and adverts, is its sensory delight.

RSNO: Carmina Burana, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall ***

As such, it provided a supporting full house for Philadelphia Orchestra assistant conductor Kensho Watanabe’s debut with the RSNO and its choruses. His style – a clinical efficiency offset by episodes of calculated swagger – was instrumental in mostly capturing the taut excitement of Orff’s earthy primitivism.

O Fortuna hit us like a bolt out of the blue, although the RSNO Chorus, precise and alert enough, seemed underpowered, practically drowned by Watanabe’s willingness to let the orchestra speak too freely.

Where the volume receded, the balance corrected itself and the thrills mounted: baritone Stephen Gadd enacted a brilliantly comic drunken abbot, tenor Adrian Dwyer’s roasting swan was exhilaratingly surreal, but soprano Fflyr Wyn was disappointingly under pitch. Full marks to the Junior Chorus for its gutsy perfection.

All of which made up for a numbing Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto featuring Turkish pianist Can Cakmur. Nothing, bar a brief glimpse of inspired sensitivity in the Largo, made much directional sense in this burdensome, lyrically frigid and often splashy performance. His encore made amends. - Kenneth Walton