Orff: Carmina Burana

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Orff
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Carmina Burana
PERFORMER: Patricia Petibon (soprano), Hans-Werner Bunz (tenor), Christian Gerhaher (baritone); Tölz Boys Choir; Bavarian Radio Chorus & SO/Daniel Harding
CATALOGUE NO: DG 477 8778

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Much is made in the PR releases for this new CD of conductor Daniel Harding’s ‘lean, modern’ approach to Orff’s most popular work. It’s certainly a notably tight and disciplined performance, perhaps a little matter-of-fact in the opening two movements, though I like the way that Harding gets precision in the difficult choral staccato rhythms without being irritatingly punctilious.
Impressive, too, is the rapt account of ‘Veris leta facies’ as spring awakens, a draft of melancholy wafting through the forest.

Christian Gerhaher is quality casting in the baritone solos, but phrases fussily in ‘Omnia Sol temperat’, rolling his Rs with irksome relish. Passages of precarious pitching and unruly vibrato also mar Patricia Petibon’s soprano contributions. The choir is excellent throughout, though Harding will irritate some by eschewing anything too obviously bacchanalian in their delivery. T

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he dances in ‘Uf dem anger’ are attractively springy and light-textured, with delightfully fresh-toned (if borderline prim) singing from the women’s voices. Harding secures fine orchestral playing too – the snap and thrum of plucked strings in ‘Swaz hie gat umbe’ is crisply projected.
The recorded sound is rather dry and airless, dulling some of the (live) performance’s impact. Turning the volume up fleshes it out a little. Overall this is a Carmina for those convinced the work is irredeemably vulgar: Harding finds a wider range of colour and refinement than almost any other conductor.
Those who like a stronger shot of medieval lustiness still have classic EMI recordings by either Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos or André Previn to turn to. Terry Blain