Eugen Jochum (1953), Elfride Trsötchel, Hans Braun, Paul
Kuen, Karl Hoppe,
Bavarian Radio Choruses and Orchestra mono [ADD] DGG 445 078-2
Trionfi (Complete) Eugen Jochum (1953,...) mono [ADD] DGG
Originals 474 131-2
Here is another of those reissue recordings which
arrives with rave reviews, in this case in two languages, printed
all over the outside of the case leaving the poor reviewer with
the choice either to join in the cheering along with everybody
else, or to be disagreeable. I will attempt to travel a middle
Yes, this is a very good Carmina Burana.
Previously I have commented that piano reductions of orchestral
works can be illuminating because of what the arranger chooses
to leave out, but here nothing is left out. It’s just that where
you are used to hearing strings or brass, you hear pianos playing
the same notes. All of the choruses, soloists, and percussion
is here, and one quickly comes to realise that that is the core
of this music, and the presence of strings and brass is not so
The printed notes are somewhat sparse, and the
question I have is when and why was this arrangement written?
After consulting both the New Grove and the Even Newer Grove,
I am no wiser, therefore I will speculate that after Orff composed
what were to become the second and third parts of Trionfi
(Catulli Carmina and Trionfo di Aphrodite) both
of which call for accompaniment of pianos and percussion, he produced
(or caused to be produced) this version so that the whole work
could be performed by the same players, and would not require
a huge symphony orchestra to play for only the first third, collect
their salary and go home, missing parts two and three. His other
option was to re-score the second and third parts for full orchestra,
and that would have only increased costs and made performance
less likely. This would suggest that the reduction was done much
after the original composition in 1937, but at that I have run
out of ideas.
Very well, except that every complete recording
of Trionfi I am aware of (Three are currently in circulation)
uses full orchestra for Carmina Burana, and the called-for
smaller accompaniment for Catulli Carmina and Trionfo
di Aphrodite. True, this arrangement of Carmina Burana
for reduced forces allows performance by college groups, as here,
who otherwise couldn’t afford to sing the work. I remember when
our local Civic Chorale performed the Brahms Deutsche Requiem
in 1985 it was done with a reduced instrumental ensemble accompaniment
of no more than half a dozen players, and sounded very effective.
Hiring a full orchestra would have been out of the question, but
a single piano accompaniment would have been grotesque in concert.
Well and good. So, allowing the reduced forces,
is this the best Carmina Burana ever done? No, because
most of the players try too hard and overplay their parts, with
the exception of the children who sound a little scared. The first
sign of trouble comes when you look in the booklet at the photographs
of the solo performers. Their egos leap off the page at you with
the same vehemence that the music leaps off the disk. Perhaps
it is impossible for the chorus to be too lively, but both Abbas
Cucaniensis and the roasted swan are somewhat over done. One
especially misses the sarcasm and irony that some singers bring
to the latter. Perhaps this is the most energetic performance
ever recorded—all the more so because one is so much closer to
the singers without all those string and brass players in the
way—but it is not the most dramatic.
A curious note in the booklet asks us to excuse
the lack of a printed text by explaining that, even though the
texts Orff used are all in the public domain, his use of them
as texts for his music makes him the original author for copyright
purposes, and the publisher requires payment of a royalty equal
to 30% of the selling price of the CD for reprinting the text!
The record producer says he’d rather pay that money to the artists.
And, after all, don’t all of us have a Carmina Burana text
somewhere in our record or concert program collections? This situation
may explain why so many German song recordings have such awful
translations of the poems in the booklets; rather than pay the
royalties, the producer has a secretary or one of his children
in school do the translation.
My vote for the overall best Carmina Burana
is still for the first recording ever done, dated mono sound and
all, with Eugen Jochum (1953). It also comes without a text, and
saves even more money by omitting proof-reading of the printed
track listing, but it only takes a minute to figure out where
you actually are on the disk. The recent complete DG issue of
this recording of Trionfi gets the track numbers right,
but also has no text. If you want a new roof rattling hi-fi version
with full orchestra, wait for a DVD-Audio or SACD version of which
we should have a dozen or so shortly.