Orff: Carmina burana

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Carmina burana
PERFORMER: Popp, Van Kesteren, Prey; Bavarian Radio Chorus, Munich Radio Orchestra/ Kurt Eichhorn;dir. Jean-Pierre Ponnelle
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 85285 9
Though it is usually performed in concert, Carl Orff intended Carmina burana to be staged, as it is in this 1975 German TV film of the ‘scenic cantata which now transfers to DVD. The Munich Radio Orchestra, conducted by Kurt Eichhorn, playing off-screen throughout, delivers a delightfully fresh and invigorating performance of a score that, because of its success in Third Reich Germany, had then been largely ignored since the war. The set is a surreal representation of medieval Europe (the First Reich of myth), in which chivalry and innocence are the prevalent attributes of a world buffeted by Fate in the chilly, haunting ‘O Fortuna’ choruses. The Bavarian Radio Chorus populates this guiltless environment, singing with sparkling exuberance and dressed like hippies. The bearded men are led by a young and handsome Hermann Prey in a sweet-toned, come-to-bed baritone, the buxom all-in-white women by Lucia Popp. The Latin texts are made explicit in happy phallus-worship and watery cavortings. The less well-endowed singers are cast as Gothic grotesques who come into their own in the Bacchanalian tavern section and the high tenor John van Kesteren wails lasciviously as he is roasted on a spit.

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The disc includes a sound-only recording of the composer talking about himself and his work, while the accompanying booklet contains press cuttings of the 1937 premiere which are interesting more for what they do not say. How normal Nazism seemed to be. Consciously or not, Orff’s wonderfully innocent cantata was part of the cover-up. Rickjones