For its big performance on Saturday of Carl Orff's roof-raising and rabble-rousing cantata, Carmina Burana, they attracted a huge and noisily appreciative crowd which clearly lapped up music director Peter Oundjian's carefully-balanced account of Orff's choral barnstormer, which was blessed with soloists in baritone Audun Iversen, soprano Valentina Farcas, and counter-tenor Daniel Taylor, all three of whom knew precisely how to characterise Orff to maximum effect.
But if the concert was a triumph, then it was a triumph against the odds. And the odds lie implacably in the flat, barren choral acoustic of the hall, an acoustic which is generally unhelpful to singers, and crucifyingly useless to choruses. I do not believe for one minute the RSNO Chorus intrinsically sounds as etiolated and desperately short of tonal depth and stability as they do in the killing acoustic of the GRCH. It's tempting to suggest they need a greater body of voices, or that they need to learn to project more in this space; but both propositions would be naive: it's an architectural problem; as basic as that.
The same limitations might apply to string orchestras, but in Vaughan Williams's Tallis Fantasia Oundjian, aided and abetted by RSNO leader Jim Clark and the strings, in quartet, small ensemble and full orchestra, wove a miracle of deception, simulating space and distance by meticulous texturing and balancing.
Thomas Ades's randy, rude and raunchy Dances From Powder her Face worked effectively as a quirky, left-field opener.
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