Orff: Carmina Burana

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: Carmina Burana
PERFORMER: Natalie Dessay (soprano), Thomas Hampson (baritone), Gerard Lesne (countertenor); Midi-Pyyrenees Chikdrens Chorus, Orfeon Donostiarra, Toulouse Capitole Orchestra/Michael Plasson
What is it about Carmina Burana? Only two years ago Decca dredged up an old recording (reviewed in March 95), put it in a new box with a semi-naked girl on the front, and launched it with a TV advertising campaign. Now EMI have put Carl Orff’s popular barnstormer into a glossy fold-out case, extravagantly decorated with astrological charts and yet more naked women, this time draped in red roses.


My three-year-old son provided one answer. I found him jiving uncontrollably to the faster sections of this recording, an accolade normally reserved for ‘The Teddy Bears’ Picnic’. Orff, who taught music for 11 years at a school in Munich, must have known that a sturdy pulse, repetitive tunes, and innocuous harmonies would appeal to the unsophisticated ear.


So a recording can’t go far wrong so long as the loud bits are suitably brash and the rhythms clearly articulated. No problems here. Michel Plasson begins ‘O Fortuna’ with startling accentuation as if to prove the point. Thomas Hampson is a fine baritone. The barbecued swan is correctly sung by a countertenor rather than a soprano or tenor. But if you really want to know the words you may be frustrated by a booklet that offers only the French translation. Christopher Lambton