> ORFF Trionfi [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Carl ORFF (1895-1982)
Trionfi - Trittico teatrale:-

1. Carmina Burana - cantiones profanae (1935-36) [57.52]
2. Catulli Carmina - ludi scaenici (1943) [38.08]
3. Trionfo de Afrodite - concerto scenico (1952) [40.45]
Carmina Burana

Celestina Casapietra (sop)
Horst Hiestermann (ten)
Karl-Heinz Stryczek (bar)
Rundfunkchor Leipzig/Horst Neumann
Dresdner Kapellknaben/Konrad Wagner
Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester Leipzig/Herbert Kegel
Catulli Carmina

Ute Mai (sop)
Eberhard Büchner (ten)
Jutta Czapski, Günter Philipp, Wolfgang Wappler, Gerhard Erber (pianos)
Rundfunkchor Leipzig/Horst Neumann
Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester Leipzig/Herbert Kegel
Trionfo di Afrodite

Isabella Nawe (sop) - La Sposa
Eberhard Büchner (ten) - Lo Sposo
Renate Krahmer (sop) - Corifea
Horst Hiestermann (ten) - Corifeo
Reiner Süß (ten) - Corifeo
Renate Krahmer (sop I)
Regina Werner (sop II)
Karl-Heinz Stryczek (bar)
Rundfunkchor Leipzig/Horst Neumann
Rundfunkchor Berlin/Wolf-Dieter Hauschild
Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester Leipzig/Herbert Kegel
rec Leipzig: Versönungskirche, Oct-No 1974 (Carmina); Sept 1971 (Catulli); Haus Auensee, June 1975 (Trionfo) ADD
BERLIN CLASSICS BC 2047-2 [71.35+65.29] Midprice


This is unusual. While there are phalanxes of recordings of Carmina Burana you will have to search hard to find a set of the complete triptych. There are two sets. There is Smetacek's Supraphon (which I have not heard) and this Berlin Classics version. Both derive from analogue sources though I am pretty sure that the Supraphon is 1960s vintage. This one is from the 1970s.

I do not recall any reviews of the complete trilogy of recordings. Of course these recordings are analogue and ‘worse still’ from two unfashionable companies. The closest the majors have come to looking at the triptych as more than just Carmina Burana is Frans Welser-Möst's project. This laudably coupled Catulli and Trionfo on a single EMI disc. EMI went to Munich to makes these recordings with that lovely city's radio orchestra. Again I have not heard that version but I know that it is highly thought of. Ormandy recorded Carmina Burana and Catulli Carmina. Each is still available on Sony Essential Classics. Leading alternative versions of Carmina Burana happen to be from EMI. The oldest is Raphael Frühbeck de Burgos’s 1960s effort and then Previn’s 1970s recording with Sheila Armstrong and the LSO. The Previn was recorded after a famous televised broadcast in which Thomas Allen fainted and his part was taken at nil notice by a member of the audience. Both EMIs have had a very long life in the catalogue and with good reason.

The two EDEL discs come in a double-width jewel case. The three works are apportioned with Carmina Burnaa complete on disc 1 and Trionfo complete on disc 2. Catulli is split with the Praelusio at the end of disc 1 and the remainder following on disc 2. Tracking is extremely generous and detailed with 25 tracks for Burana (track 15 has two index points and track 9 has 4). Catulli is in five tracks with sixteen index entries. Trionfo has ten tracks and seven index points. Embedded indexing is rare these days and I wonder how many modern CD players can access the index points.

The LPs were originally issued in 1973, 1976 and 1978. This 1974 Carmina Burana replaces Kegel's more famous recording made in the mid-1960s using the same Leipzig orchestra but different soloists.

These three pieces are sonic spectaculars. Carmina Burana, in particular, has been the subject or victim of super-bass, hi-definition, direct-to-disc or quadrophonic ‘specials’ of various stamps. The salaciously bawdy lyrics have also helped to give the Cantiones profanae a certain notoriety. On top of that, in the UK in the 1970s, O Fortuna (tr. 25 CD1, here) was used in an 'Old Spice' men’s aftershave advertisement. That too helped sell discs and promote performances.

The style of these three works was surely shaped not only by the medieval sources but also by Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms and Les Noces.

Kegel made something of a specialism of Carmina Burana. There is an even older version included in the Kegel celebration box reviewed by me a month or so ago. This 1970s one has all the bustle, light-footedness, raucousness, coarseness and rapture you could want. The women's contributions swoon and dance with grace. The men are rowdy, leering and serenading. Kegel takes the quick sections very quickly and there is some split-second precision work with the orchestra especially in Primo vere. Stryczek is a wonderful baritone - listen to him in Estuans interius. In In taberna quando sumus the men's choir viciously wrap their lips almost scornfully around some of the most sharply etched word-setting in Western music. Casapietra attacks with clean rapture the Stetit puella and, though tested by the ionospheric demands of Dulcissime, passes with distinction, delicacy, steadiness and poetic sensitivity. Time after time spatial effects are explored to brilliant effect. The best illustration is Veni, veni venias (tr. 20).

Catulli Carmina has the same rowdy, strongly rhythmic, percussively volleying edginess as Burana. Perhaps parts of it suffer from ‘sequelitis’ with the style fully intact but the intrinsic ideas creaking. On the other hand at 10.2 of the Praelusio the gentle play of the harp with the voices is superbly inventive. Catulli is also distinctive for the occasional shouted and breathlessly lewd exclamation from the wonderfully dissolute and leering Eberhard Büchner. The choir do not display quite as much unruly finesse as they do in Burana but they are impressive and they act their parts as if their lives were at stake. The salacious rolling growl in the final Eis aiona has to be heard (tr. 4. Exodium). Catulli starts and ends with the Eis aiona chorus in much the same way as Burana starts and ends with O Fortuna. This pattern was abandoned for Trionfo.

Like Catulli Carmina, Trionfo uses words by Catullus. To this source Orff adds various Sapphic poems and a fragment by Euripides. The plot follows a wedding ceremony of antiquity. Snappy, percussive, motoric rhythms etched with impact and precision are the order of the day. In this work the orchestral fusillades recall Petrushka and in Apparizione di Afrodite (finale, tr 14) it is the thunderous ice-cracking Rite of Spring that comes to mind. In La sposa viene condotta (tr 11) Büchner relishes his over the top high volume shout-acting. It must be the only way to play this music if it is to succeed at all. By the time we get to the end of Trionfo the singing will have reminded you not only of Stravinsky but also of sixties’ vintage Ligeti and Penderecki.

No words or translations are provided by EDEL.

None of this music is hard listening. The set is well worth tracking down either because you know of Carmina Burana by reputation and want to have the complete triptych or because you can't get enough of Carmina Burana. Be warned; although there are filial similarities this is not a complete style-copy of the famous original.

Rob Barnett


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