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Carl ORFF (1895–1982)
Carmina Burana (1936)
Jutta Vulpius (soprano); Hans-Joachim Rotzsch (tenor); Kurt Rehm (baritone); Kurt Hübenthal (bass); Rundfunk Kinderchor Leipzig, Rundfunkchor Leipzig
Rundfunksinfonieorchester Leipzig/Herbert Kegel
rec. 1960
Experience Classicsonline

When I saw this disc on the last request list I had a fit of nostalgia, since this was the recording through which I got to know Carmina Burana back in the mid-1960s. It appeared on one of the early low-price labels, Heliodor, a company affiliated to Deutsche Grammophon. Later I purchased the full price DG recording under Eugen Jochum and when it appeared on CD in ‘The Originals’ series I bought it in that format too. That recording has claims to be the most authentic since it was recorded under the supervision of the composer. Coming back to Kegel’s almost fifty-year-old East German recording, however, turned out to be no mere trip of nostalgia but in a way just as satisfying a musical experience as the Jochum recording.

Herbert Kegel (1920–1990) was born in Dresden, studied conducting with Karl Böhm and composition with Boris Blacher at the Dresden Conservatory. He had a three-decade-long association with the Leipzig Radio Orchestra and Choir from 1948 and became their principal conductor in 1960, the year this recording was made. His discography is extensive and includes several other works by Orff, among them the two operas Die Kluge and Der Mond. He re-recorded Carmina Burana in 1974, issued on the Eterna and Philips labels. From this we can conclude that he had deep insight into Orff’s very special sound-world and may be regarded just as much an authority as Jochum.

Interpretatively they are rather close. Kegel’s tempos are well judged and the overall timing is about two minutes longer than Jochum’s, which is a negligible difference in so long a work. He doesn’t indulge in rubatos or too sophisticated nuances as some conductors tend to, in order, no doubt, to make the music more artful. Kegel is straightforward, keen on precision and rhythmic springiness. It is a vigorous reading but he doesn’t underplay the lyrical moments either. The Leipzig Radio forces may be less prestigious than the Gewandhaus Orchestra in the same city, but the playing and singing can nowhere be faulted and is fully comparable to Jochum’s forces from the Deutsche Oper in Berlin. Where Jochum scores is in recording quality. The Leipzig recording is far from bad; playing at rather high volume the power was impressive but DG’s balance engineer Klaus Scheibe ensured much wider dynamics. Jochum also has better soloists – at least they are more personal, which isn’t necessarily always to the good in Orff’s music. Gundula Janowitz’s creamy soprano is warmer than her East German counterpart and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is hard to beat in this music. On the other hand I prefer Hans-Joachim Rotzsch’s impersonation of the roasted swan. He finds the right balance between pity and irony. But Jutta Vulpius also negotiates her testing part very well and has no problems with the stratospheric Dulcissime. Kurt Rehm is a straightforward and reliable baritone soloist.

In the last resort Jochum has to be the prime recommendation but Kegel is far from negligible and I can’t imagine anyone buying this disc being seriously disappointed. It was a perfect introduction to this work for me more than forty years ago and hearing it again confirmed that it holds its own against more starry constellations. The disc comes in a simple cardboard folder with no texts and no notes.

Göran Forsling 


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