Orff: Carmina Burana

COMPOSERS: Orff
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Orff
WORKS: Carmina Burana
PERFORMER: Claire Rutter (soprano), Tom Randle (tenor), Markus Eiche (baritone); Highcliffe Junior Choir; Bournemouth Symphony Youth Chorus; Bournemouth SO & Chorus/Marin Alsop
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570033
Many things go right in this new Carmina Burana recording. Marin Alsop’s pacing of the opening ‘O Fortuna’ chorus is spot-on, and the choir avoids the quasi-Sprechgesang whispering tactics often employed to lend a false sense of tension and momentousness to their early utterances. Diction is excellent (especially among the men’s voices), as it is in ‘Omnia sol temperat’, sung by baritone Markus Eiche who phrases with scrupulous attention to the Latin text’s meaning. His attempted falsetto later in the beautiful ‘Dies, nox et omnia’ is, unfortunately, mildly risible. Tenor Tom Randle, by contrast, sounds marvellously discomforted as the roasting swan in ‘Cignus ustus cantat’, and is the pick of the soloists. Soprano Claire Rutter makes worthy contributions, though ‘In trutina’ is tentatively tremulous, and she goes sharp at the start of ‘Dulcissime’. Conductor Alsop is a constantly energising presence. Her ‘Tanz’ in ‘Uf dem anger’ sounds remarkably like a Copland hoedown, and only in the orchestral ‘Reie’ does she beat a touch sluggishly.

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Rough edges notwithstanding, this is a lusty and in many ways extremely appealing version of Orff’s popular classic. If ultimately I still prefer EMI’s two alternative offerings, by Frühbeck de Burgos and Previn (both of which have better soloists and recording), this new interpretation now occupies a prominent and convincing niche at the budget end of the market. Terry Blain