Orff: Carmina Burana
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|1. Carmina burana|
|2. O Fortuna|
|3. Fortune plango vulnera|
|4. Veris leta facies|
|5. Omnia sol remperat|
|6. Ecce gratum|
|8. Floret silva|
|9. "Chramer, gip die Varwe mir"|
|11. Were diu werlt alle min|
|12. Estuans interius|
|13. Olim lacus colueram|
|14. Ego sum abbas Cucaniensis|
|15. In taberna quando sumus|
|16. Amor volat undique|
|17. "Dies, nox et omnia"|
|18. Stetit puella|
|19. Circa mea pectora|
|20. Si puer cum puellula|
See all 26 tracks on this disc
The recording's producers bill it as an "audio spectacular," and indeed, its sound is big, full, and surprisingly detailed, considering the large performing forces involved. It's also a live concert performance, that, in spite of some sluggish tempos, holds up well against the best studio versions thanks to a first-rate chorus and soloists. --David Vernier --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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I`m not much into choral works. I prefer my symphonies and concertos. I`ve always found this piece, however, quite enjoyable, having heard fine renditions from the local libraries by Jochum on DG, Dutoit`s lovely Montreal on Decca, and Levine`s impressive DG Chicago recording from the `80`s. Yet none of these performances urged me to actually buy one.
However, when I first heard this 1983 version, I was completely entranced. In Trutina by Silvia Greenberg brought tears to my eyes. O Fortuna was more intense than any of the previously mentioned performances, especially with the 2-beat drum resonating fiercely.
The tempi are perfect: very consistently paced. The sound is fresh and sharp, as many early stereo recordings from Decca in the 1980`s were.
For Orff (and as well for Mahler 3), Chailly is the best choice for me.
This is a live recording in superb sound; very few coughs and a real sense of space. A palpable sense of enjoyment runs through it and it sounds much closer in spirit to the bawdy riot that Orff surely intended rather than a decorous concert performance. The sopranos in the chorus are a bit stretched and there is the odd wobbler but in general artistic standards are remarkably high, testament to the talent in depth available in and to regional German orchestras.
Buy this and you'll be pleasantly surprised.
As to Leonard Slatkin, St. Louis, and the choruses, the rest of the work comes off quite well, if not quite as powerful as some recordings, the wanton joy and fun being performed here is a hoot. The children’s chorus and symphony chorus are heard well, and if not crisply, they are certainly captured naturally in the performance space. Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony forged a successful career together for two decades, and they performed Carmina Burana towards the end of their partnership with aplomb. RCA gives good balance to the extra percussion and piano, but not at the expense of the brass and strings; at some points I wished they captured the chorus a little closer, but it is certainly not a deal breaker. This recording is now two decades old (I purchased this when it came out but realized I never reviewed it), and stands a first choice along with some others as a great recording, mostly for the soloists, but also for the spirit of the orchestra and choruses. Update: Now being re-pressed by RCA (the fruit on the cover is a little less exciting than the original), there is no reason not to pick this up at a great price.
As a side recommendation, if you enjoy Carmina Burana, try out Benjamin Britten’s much neglected Spring Symphony.
To my ears the first thing to treasure on this disc is the rich playing of the Vienna Philharmonic. They have shine and tonal depth in each and every department. Yet their forward drive hardly ever falls short of connoting a special sort of musical elegance. I guess maybe it is a James Bond thang - a strikingly handsome action hero with plenty of muscle, sipping shaken martinis with one hand while using deadly martial arts on the other hand to keep a whole gaggle of bad guys at bay. With Vienna, the impossible western classical music orchestra becomes more than possible.
And all that yumminess, caught live in concert. Whew. I think I've just gotten a nice box of designer chocolates, sprinkled with coke powder. Or something else, surpassing, strange.
The choruses are completely on point, too. So far as my ears can hear. They have just as much musical eight to carry as the band; and nobody fell asleep the night this one was being sung. Yes, conductor Andre Previn paces some sections of this forward-driving cantata more slowly, and he takes the tempo space as an effective opportunity to draw out all the color, expressiveness, and vocal or instrumental detail - that seemingly inexhaustible showmanship-display which Orff seems to have been able to write into this piece. If the instrumental players and the choruses were not capable of significant tonal heft and contrast and color, framed in precisely etched rhythmic acumen, slower tempos would probably make me sleepy, going all soft into the sofa. Hardly the case, folks. Previn's tempos are not all that extreme or eccentric anyways; and given the talent on this disc, his reading ends up sounding like Rolls Royce transportation to Orff-ian musical realms.
Yes, of course, I wish all this had been captured in super audio surround sound. Regular red book stereo hardly seems like the absolute sonic best an engineer in Vienna could do. But, contrarily. My ears tell me this red book recording comes across as well as any other of the best ones I have sitting on my fav shelves. I thought maybe I could pick up the alleged flaws or lacks by listening on high quality headphones. But no, as usual, the headphones just brought all the goodness home, close up and personal. No complaints from my ears, then. The huge collection of instruments, singers, and hall venue resonance is wide frequency, detailed - not muddy, restricted, thin, or boxy.
If you want an example of flawed sonics, go back to some other disc. I don't think this one is really in that running.
Soloists? Soprano Barbara Bonney is singing live, remember? She manages to combine the best of the two types of soprano that usually get assigned this part. She can chime with bell clarity, even in her highest reaches; and she shows plenty of heft, as when this soprano work is taken on by a more dramatic type of coloratura. Frank Lopardo's roasted swan really cannot be faulted. It's a character part, after all, meant to paint a musical scene of garish gusto, from the point of view of the poor swan being eaten, somehow roasted but reporting the scene to us, live. In fact, to my ears, Lopardo actually conveys touches of musical value, along with his Halloween Haunted House story-telling.
The brunt of the vocal solo assignments in this cantata is clearly borne by the bass-baritone. On this disc, Anthony Michaels-Moore is simply way better than good, vocally. Omnia sol temperat is suave and polished, completely fluent. Estuans enterius is commanding, but the singer never has to resort to the barking and booming that some vocalists use to cope with the rhythmic outlines of the vocal line. His Ego sum abbas references both the implied, free touches of plainsong and chant in one of the abbot's religious services, while making good music no matter where the tipsy abbot's brag rings out in the fluid tessitura. I hear no sense of vocal strain, even when the abbot's challenge rises high and triumphant with victory at the gaming tables. Circa mea pectora moves right along, with Michaels-Moore serving up yet more of that burnished tone, no weariness in sight. He handles the a capella embroidery of Si puer cum puellula with utter accuracy, points the skipping rhythms, and keeps that golden vocal tone going throughout.
So, to recap. I cannot hear the flaws or defects that others hear in this disc or its alleged sonics. Instead, I hear plenty of amazing musical stuff, enough to make it a lasting treasure of an Orff cantata reading. The soloists are a definite plus - like the Vienna band. More than enough to handle the music, and coming across strong with oodles of tonal heft in every department at every sound level in all frequencies. That's why to me, this one is a fav shelf keeper, all stars.