Carl Orff brings the Middle Ages into the modern era with Carmina Burana, one of the best-loved choral works of the 20th century, and an exuberant celebration of the power of music’s simplest yet most versatile building blocks: beautiful melody, and raw rhythm.
The title Carmina Burana means ‘Songs from Benediktbeuern’ and refers to a medieval collection of poetry written by travelling scholars and clerics. (Benediktbeuern is the name of the town in southern Germany in whose abbey the manuscript was found.) Some of the poems are in Latin, some are in medieval German or French, and some are in a mixture of languages.
The themes of the poems range from the worldly to the downright earthy: the cruel randomness of Fate, the joys of Spring and the beauty of nature, and the pleasures (and perils!) of drinking, gluttony, gambling and lust. Orff uses elements from medieval music — flowing melodic lines in the style of Gregorian plainsong, and simple harmonies (sometimes just a single, long-held bass note, or ‘drone’) — to evoke the world of the medieval poets.
Carmina Burana was originally written (in 1936) for choirs, soloists and large orchestra. Twenty years later, Orff authorised a smaller-scale version which uses two pianos and an extensive battery of percussion, instead of a full orchestra, thus accentuating the rhythmic energy of the music; it is this version which is recorded here.
Carl Orff: Carmina Burana: Edition for voices, two pianos and percussion
O Fortuna Fortune plango vulnera Veris leta facies IV. Omnia sol temperat Ecce gratum Tanz Floret Silva Nobilis Chramer, gip die Varwe mir Reie Were diu Werlt alle min Estuans interius Olim lacus colueram Ego sum abbas In taberna quando sumus Amor volat undique Dies, nox et omnia Stetit puella Circa mea pectora Si puer cum puellula Veni, veni, venias In trutina Tempus est iocundum Dulcissime Ave formosissima O Fortuna
Cantillation Sara Macliver soprano Paul McMahon tenor Jonathan Summers baritone
Australian Virtuosi (Michael Kieran Harvey & Bernadette Harvey)