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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger



BARGAIN OF THE MONTH

CARMINA BURANA: Medieval Poems and Songs
Bache, bene venies [5:55]
Axe Phebus aureo [5:47]
Clauso cronos [3:07]
Katerine collaudemus [3:27]
Fas et nefas [3:36]
Tempus transit gelidum [5:05]
Ich was ein Chint so wolgetan [3:14]
Ecce torpet probitas [6:03]
Exiit [2:48]
Vite perdite [5:39]
Procurans odium [5:30]
Celum, non animum [2:58]
Tempus est iocundum [6:01]
Ensemble Unicorn, Michael Posch, director; Ensemble Oni Wytars, Marco Ambrosini, director; Bernhard Landauer, countertenor; Eric Mentzel, tenor; Peter Rabanser, tradioual style tenor, bagpipes, mandola; Marco Ambrosini, fiddle, chorus; Thomas Wimmer, fiddle, lute, chorus; Riccardo Delfino, harp, hurdy-gurdy, chorus; Michael Posch, recorder, chorus; Katharina Dustmann. Framedrums, Landknechtstrommel, tambourine, chours; Wolfgang Reithofer, Landknechttrommel, tamourine, xylophone, bells.
Recorded at the Karthaus Mauerbach, 18-21 May 1997 DDD
NAXOS 8.554837 [59:08]

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To the casual listener, Carmina Burana is a big splashy choral and orchestral work that has made it into more B action films that can be counted. Carl Orff’s decided masterwork has been sadly relegated to Hollywood status, and poorly imitated by countless hack film scorers. Herr Orff got his texts, however, from a manuscript of songs and poems, probably compiled around 1230, and written down by at least three different scribes in monasteries either in Styria or Carinthia. In 1803, the manuscript was taken from its home at the Abbey of Benediktbeuren to Munich, where in 1847 it was edited and published under its now famous title.

Although there is some musical notation in the original manuscript, it is in the form of heightened neumes, vague indications of pitch and melodic flow, and as such, it is impossible to determine the exact tunes to which these poems, which are often rather bawdy in nature, were sung. Since, however, it was the common practice of Medieval musicians to adapt a single tune to fit any number of texts, (a practice known as contrafactum) these works can rather easily and with a fair sense of authenticity be brought to life. This is achieved through the more clearly notated melodies left behind by, among others, the St. Martial composers active in Limoges during the period, and of those who were working at Notre Dame.

The end result is a collection of magnificent music, lively and rhythmic, tuneful and engaging with some of the most wonderful poetry ever penned for its texts. The two exemplary ensembles heard in this recording are breathtakingly flawless. They completely and utterly revel in this spirited repertoire and exhibit sheer joy in bringing it to life.

Of particular note here, (although there is absolutely nothing negative to say about the work of any of these musicians) are our two solo singers, countertenor Bernhard Landauer, and tenor Eric Mentzel. Mr. Landauer is absolutely the very finest countertenor I have ever heard. His voice is perfectly seamless; every note of his range from lowest to highest is of the ideal weight and timbre. His flawless rendition of Axe Phebus aureo,is a tour de force of musical story telling, delightful in its contrasts and scene painting. Mr. Mentzel also acquits himself marvelously in his several duets with Landauer. It is a bit of a shame that he gets no solos here, as his is a lovely and mellifluous instrument, which blends perfectly with his singing partner’s.

All of the tunes in this performance are infectious due in large part to their lilting rhythms. One would be hard pressed however to leave the room whistling them simply because they are such uncommon and unusual fare. One outstanding work however, Katharina collaudemus will instantly bring to mind the plainchant hymn Pange lingua for those who are familiar with the Roman and Anglican music traditions.

Lest I forget the instrumentalists, who on the whole all double as choristers where needed, let me be quick to point out their notable virtuosity and magnificent abilities at improvisation. Everything is played with a life and energy that left me dancing around the room by disc’s end.

Sound quality is exquisite; Keith Anderson has translated a set of notes program notes by Michael Posch that are concise, informative and relevant. A complete winner, this! Recommended without a moment’s hesitation.

Kevin Sutton

 



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