Orff: Carmina Burana

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Orff
LABELS: EMI
ALBUM TITLE: Orff – Carmina Burana
WORKS: Carmina Burana
PERFORMER: Sally Matthews, Lawrence Brownless, Christian Gerhaher, Berlin Radio Chorus, Berlin Phil, Simon Rattle
CATALOGUE NO: 557 8882
Simon Rattle’s Carmina Burana starts

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haltingly, with fussily emphasised

pauses in the opening vocal tutti and

a backward choral balance creating

a muffled, frustratingly hemmedin

impression. Subdued sound

remains an issue throughout, but the

performance itself (from three New

Year concerts) soon slips into firmer

focus, with whippy instrumental

codas to the verses in ‘Fortune plango

vulnera’, mellifluous vocal phrasing in

the plainchant-influenced ‘Veris leta

facies’ and a poised, pensive ‘Omnia

sol temperat’ from baritone Christian

Gerhaher. The ‘Spring’ section as a

whole is more plangent and reflective

than most of Rattle’s CD rivals.

‘On the Green’ brings further

refined, dynamically nuanced choral

singing, but could be more lusty and

spontaneous in impact. Lawrence

Brownlee is superbly straitened as

the carbonising swan of ‘Olim lacus

colueram’, though neither Gerhaher

(precariously fluttery in the falsetto

fioritura of ‘Dies, nox et omnia’)

nor soprano Sally Matthews (whose

vibrato is rather fast and excitable) is

quite as effective as Brownlee in the

‘Courtly Love’ sequence. Rattle feasts

with relish on the burgeoning choral

climaxes of ‘Ave, formosissima’, and the immense muscle that the Berlin

Philharmonic holds in reserve fuels a

powerful final peroration.

In many ways this is a fine, fresh

issue of an overworked warhorse, with

numerous moments of individual

illumination. But the sluggish

acoustics bother me, as does a certain

lack of cumulative impact. Either of

EMI’s classic analogue alternatives

(Previn at mid-price, Frühbeck de

Burgos even cheaper) provides a more

cohesive, dramatically immediate

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experience.Terry Blain