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Carl ORFF (1895-1982)
Carmina Burana (1937) [63:05]
Evelyn Mandac, soprano
Stanley Kolk, tenor
Sherrill Milnes, baritone
New England Conservatory Chorus/Lorna Cooke de Varon
Children’s Chorus of the New England Conservatory/Katherine Edmonds Pusztai
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Seiji Ozawa
Recording date and location undisclosed ADD
BMG CLASSICS 82876 59417 2 [63:05]


When one starts listing the grandest and most popular choral works of the twentieth century, the list absolutely must begin with Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. "Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi" is part of the international musical vocabulary, familiar enough to even appear in television commercials and inspire movie scores in every genre. The intense rhythmic vocabulary and innovative vocal orchestration, including the tonal planing and broadly spaced open chords alternating with more traditional use of voices instructed a generation of composers in the dramatic use of sound. The texts themselves are from a fairly unobtrusive anthology of songs found in a single medieval collection titled simply "Songs of Beuren". Yet these words from the 13th century inspired a masterpiece.

This recording of Orff’s masterwork is itself among the best. It must be coupled with James Levine’s conducting of the Chicago Symphony in 1984 as among the most bright and lively renditions of the Carmina Burana. The introductory and recapitulatory renditions of "Fortuna Imperatix Mundi" are forcefully and energetically recorded. The soloists are well chosen and the orchestra performs at its level best.

The only complaint one could have, and it is a small one, is that in the quieter movements of the solo or purely orchestral sections the listener may be able to hear some of the noise that can be introduced in the analog recording process. It would however be the rarest of listeners who would object in any meaningful way.

Orff’s Carmina Burana is an essential work in any music collection. There are no conceivable musical tastes that could not appreciate some aspect of this work. This particular performance was outstanding, and anyone that does not already have a favorite recording of this work should definitely consider exposing themselves to this rendition.

Patrick Gary

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