Orff: Prometheus

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Orff
LABELS: Orfeo
WORKS: Prometheus
PERFORMER: Roland Hermann, Colette Lorand, Fritz Uhl; Bavarian RSO & Women’s Chorus/Rafael Kubelík
CATALOGUE NO: C 526 992 I ADD
Retrogressive to the end, Carl Orff set his last major opera to his own libretto in Ancient Greek. Strauss’s Elektra was a major inspiration behind the trilogy of Greek dramas that he considered to be his real legacy – Antigonae (1949), Oedipus (1959) and Prometheus (1968) – but Orff’s sound-world is less sensuous than Strauss’s: he opts for the arid brutality of an orchestra comprising six flutes, six oboes, six trumpets, six trombones, four pianos, four banjos, four harps, organ, nine double basses and percussion for 15-plus players. His setting is often declamatory, with much spoken text; ironically for a composer who was trying to get away from the strictures of serialism, there are moments that recall Moses und Aron.

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This is a strong performance – if you like this sort of thing. It was given in Munich in 1975 to celebrate the composer’s 80th birthday, and Rafael Kubelík makes the most of the music. Roland Hermann is a lofty Prometheus, memorable in his opening lament, and Josef Greindl and Kieth Engen capture the brutishness of Zeus’s myrmidons. Then there is Colette Lorand’s Io Inachis, whose frenzied screams as she is transformed into a cow at least sound musical. All perform with the sort of mechanistic force the music requires. John Allison