This Carmina Burana was originally issued on
the Classics for Pleasure label back in LP days: it makes a comeback
on the same label in this digitally remastered reissue, coupled with
two rather-more-civilised choral classics from a previous generation.
Whether the additional material is sufficient to ensure saleability
of Handford’s frustratingly middle-of-the-road performance of the Orff
is the big question.
The Fauré and Franck are in fact unexceptional.
They’re nicely played (the gorgeous solo flute is worth singling out)
and sung but there are more refined and polished versions on the market.
Unfortunately, the words are well nigh impossible to pick out: inevitably,
this leads one to question the point of using the (optional!) chorus
in the Fauré, or the (optional!) orchestral accompaniment in
As for Carmina Burana, the Hallé Choir
undoubtedly sing with gusto (a necessary quality in this piece) but
they’re neither as frolicsome nor as debauched as this music demands.
They sometimes sound tired, half-hearted and poorly disciplined: ‘Olim
lacus colueram’ is raucous, tonally, and ‘In taberna quando sumus’ garbled.
In many of the tuttis, they (or is it the recording?) don’t deliver
enough to carry across the hubbub of the orchestra.
The soloists are, in different ways, disappointing.
Sheila Armstrong’s unquestionable artistry serves ‘Amor volat undique’
and ‘Stetit puella’ well enough, but ‘Dulcissime’ is beyond her, and
utterly ungainly. Similarly, Peter Hall is impossibly strained in his
(admittedly demanding) role. Brian Rayner Cook’s lightweight baritone
is pleasing, but his singing style is unnecessarily refined and restrained:
it’s never quite big enough for this sort of piece.
Handford’s conducting seldom rises above the routine
and, like the recording (which, though reasonably faithful, is hardly
spectacular), is unlikely to lift you out of your seat. You may well
find plenty to enjoy, but for a piece such as this – which is full of
sparkle, weight and colour – I’m afraid there just isn’t enough sparkle,
weight and colour.
The booklet is the usual cut-price affair, with no
words included. With a Latin text, a backwardly-balanced choir and (as
often as not) an untidy ensemble, there’s little hope of being able
to follow the words.
You really are spoilt for choice when it comes to recordings
of Carmina Burana, and any newcomer or reissue needs to be able
to boast some very special qualities if it is to claim a place high
up the list. With the best will in the world, this disc doesn’t nearly
fulfill those requirements: it really is outclassed by the competition.
At budget price, try Mata on RCA Navigator – exciting in every way,
Peter J Lawson