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
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.