Classical CD Reviews

CARL ORFF: Carmina Burana


Published on May 15, 2005

CARL ORFF: Carmina Burana
CARL ORFF: Carmina Burana – Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra /Sir Simon
Rattle, conductor; Rundfunkchor Berlin / Knaben des Staats-und Domchors
Berlin/ Sally Matthews, soprano/ Lawrence Brownlace, tenor/ Christian
Gerhahaer, baritone – EMI 7243 5 57888 2 5 ****:

Carmina Burana is approaching 70. It is perennially vital, being
concerned with the pleasures and uncertainties of life. If as human
beings we are but debris tossed on the winds of fortune, then the
pleasure of Earth and Body may be our only tangible sources of joy.

The 13th century monks at Benediktbeuren in the Bavarian Alps were as
in or out of tune with the meaning of life as any 21st century savant.
Sex, wine and food were then as now – for many the only reason for
existence. Carmina is mesmerizing, an amalgam of religious chant, pop
tune, dance chorus and erotic aria. The full panoply of percussion is
brought to bear upon the verses of “Songs of Beuern” together with lean
muscular orchestration. Simple, propulsive, repetitive rhythms are
abundant. Indeed, the consistent success and popular notoriety of
Carmina Burana comes from its wonderful sing, stamp and dance-along
melodies. This is the stuff ad agencies dream of.

Sir Simon Rattle is a percussionist, a creator of orchestras and,
lately the music director of one of the world’s great ensembles, The
Berlin Philharmonic. This new recording weds Rattle’s marvelous sense
of rhythm with the unique playing of the Berlin instrument. This live
performance does not disappoint. It is well recorded by EMI with
mid-row perspective from within the Philharmonie, a notoriously
difficult choral music recording venue. The soloists, Sally Matthews,
soprano, Lawrence Brownlee, tenor, and Christian Gerhaher, baritone,
are fine, providing seamless blending with the excellent Rundfunkchor
of Berlin and the glorious playing of the orchestra.

Carl Orff’s timeless journey from Uf dem anger to In taberna to Cours
d’amours is carried out with great verve and beauty by Rattle and his
forces. When the final O fortuna is completed, the uncertainty and
chance of human existence is viscerally understood.

Carmina Burana verges on becoming a pop classic. It is ubiquitous as
background to sporting events and advertising material as well as in
the concert hall and on the theatre stage. The new EMI recording takes
front place among the many releases over decades of this celebrated
“hit” music.

- Ronald Legum




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