Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Carl ORFF (1895-1982)
Carmina Burana
Edita Gruberova (soprano)
John Aler (tenor)
Thomas Hampson (baritone)
Shin Yu-Kai Choir
Knabenchor des Staats-und Domchores Berlin
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Seiji Ozawa
PHILIPS 464 725-2 (50 Great Recordings series) [60.20]
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You're either a sucker for Carmina Burana or you can't stick it; I'm of the former persuasion, whether in a live concert or in an outstanding recording such as this. All the elements here are of the highest quality - the three soloists, the BPO of course, and the choirs; about whom, by the way, I would like to know much more. The booklets that accompany these Philips '50 Great Recordings' are less than informative. A Japanese Chorus recording this work in Germany surely needs some comment but gets none at all. Anyway, the Shin Yu-Kai Choir sing superbly and with total commitment. The men produce suitably lusty tone when needed, and the women are not found wanting by the sometimes cruelly high writing for them.

Ozawa brings tremendous rhythmic drive to the whole thing, as well as a tonal brilliance that is thrilling. At the same time, he allows the softer sections the poise and dreaminess they need, and controls the tempo fluctuations with a perfect sense of timing. Gruberova's high D in the 'Dulcissime' solo is superbly sung - though it sounds almost too much under control; there ought perhaps to be something more primitive about this defining moment in the piece.

For me, the ultimate recording of this work was Jochum's DG recording of the late 60s, and the crucial difference between that and Ozawa's version is made by the soloists. Jochum had Fischer-Dieskau in top form as his baritone, and the incomparable Gundula Janowitz as his soprano. Add to those Gerhard Stolze as an outrageous barbecued swan and you have an unforgettable and unrepeatable combination.

Nonetheless, this Philips version takes some beating, and must be up there among the very finest recordings of the work available today.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

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