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Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567 - 1643)/Carl ORFF (1895 – 1982)
Tempora – Alles hat seine Zeit;
Harald GENZMER
(b. 1909)

Um Mitternacht; Tristissima Nox;
Max REGER
(1873 – 1916)
8 Geistliche Gesange, Opus 138 (Nos. 1-4);
Carl ORFF
(1895 – 1982)/Herman REGNER (b. 1928)

Fröhlicher Ostersang; Am Weynachtabend; Das Wessobruner Gebet;
Walter BUCHENBERG (b. 1962)
Veni sancte Spiritus; Magnificat; Vidi calumnias et lacrymas;
Carl ORFF
(1895 – 1982)
Veni creator spiritus; Sunt lacrimae rerum
Carl Orff Choir/Robert Blank
rec. 16-17 April 2005, Walfahrtskirche Maria Hilf, Speiden; 25 June 2005, St. Ulrich, Bad Worishofen (Gartenstadt); 9 July 2005, Siftskirche St. Philippus und Jakobus, Bad Grönebach.
OEHMS CLASSICS OC 531 [67.18]

 

 

In the UK, Carl Orff is known mainly for Carmina Burana with the other two works from Trionfi sometimes getting a look in. It is rare for any of his other music to be performed. But CD enables groups to do explorations that would not always be possible live. In the late 1990s Winter & Winter issued a disc which complemented Orff’s choral music with music by those who had inspired him and by those inspired by him. Now the Carl Orff Choir, under Robert Blank, has produced a disc entitled Tempora, Alles hat seine Zeit which is a similar voyage around Orff’s choral music.

For this recital, Robert Blank has chosen to mix Orff’s choral music with music by fellow composers with Munich connections. Max Reger was a fellow Bavarian and Orff studied music with Anton Beer-Walbrun, a friend of Reger’s. Harald Genzmer was a younger contemporary of Orff’s; though Genzmer was influenced by Hindemith, he taught alongside the Academy of Music in Munich and Orff’s vital rhythms can be detected in Genzmer’s music. Hermann Regner worked alongside Carl Orff; Regner was the professor of music education at the Orff Institute of the Salzburg Mozarteum. Regner is also the mentor of the Carl Orff choir. Wolfram Buchenberg is the baby of the group, he met Orff at a choral rehearsal a year before Orff’s death.

The Carl Orff Choir is based in Marktoberdorf and is a chamber choir of some thirty singers, most of whom started singing in the local high school. Its conductor Robert Blank founded the choir in 1994; the choir was originally called the Vocalensemble Marktoberdorf. Blank created the choir to continue the work of the Carl Orff Choir which had existed until 1992, directed by Arthur Gross.

The disc opens with two choruses from Monteverdi’s Orfeo, sung in Orff’s rather effective a cappella arrangements. The choir perform them with fine crisp tones and a good rhythms, as befits a choir dedicated to Orff’s memory.

Genzmer’s Um Mitternacht is a setting of the poem by Mörike and Tristissima nox sets a German translation of a poem by Manuel Gutierrez Najaer. Both Genzmer’s pieces display an imaginative use of a basically tonal language. In Um Mitternacht Genzmer creates a lovely, ethereal atmosphere. Tristissima Nox is from a cycle of South American songs; the choir is very attentive to the atmosphere of quiet intensity created by Genzmer.

The group perform only the first four of Reger’s 8 Geistliche Gesänge. They sing them with warm rich tone; in the quiet opening of No. 3 they achieve a lovely hushed intensity. Unfortunately at other times the choir plods a little and I wanted a greater sense of shape to the phrases and more of a sense of line. Reger’s Oster-Motette is a charming piece with interesting harmonic corners.

For Fröhlicher Ostersang and Am Weynachtabend Hermann Regner has expanded works by Orff. For Fröhlicher Ostersang Orff wrote for single voice and instruments with a melody that he found in the 1617 Speyer Song book. Both Fröhlicher Ostersang and Am Weynachtabend were published in their original forms in Orff’s Music for Children. Regner’s a cappella choral versions expand on Orff’s textures, but use the sort of rhythmic motifs which are familiar from Orff’s work. It is a testament to Regner’s arrangements that the final textures of the pieces resembles Orff’s own work.

Orff’s own expansion of the plainchant Veni crator Spiritus mixes plainchant with some interestingly spiky additions, the result is rather haunting.

In both Veni, sancte spiritus and Magnificat, Wolfram Buchenberg was influenced by the plainchant originals. In Veni, sancte spiritus he mixes some striking spiky opening harmonies with Orff-like rhythmic elements. The result is lovely, and the piece is given a fine, lively performance by the choir. In Magnificat Buchenberg gives quasi Gregorian phrases to the women’s voices, each individual singing at their own tempo. The result is a gorgeous multi-voiced texture. Buchenberg contrasts this with more homophonic sections with luminous harmonies. Vidi calumnias et lacrymas mixes some interesting note clusters with more traditional harmony, to good effect. All three of Buchenberg’s pieces receive outstanding performances from the choir.

I was less taken with Herman Regner’s Alles zu seiner Zeit, a group of six miniatures for mixed choir to poems by Catarina Carsen. The piece was written for the Carl Orff Choir and their performance is creditable, though perhaps a little too dogged. Regner’s style owes much to German tradition and perhaps those more sympathetic might admire these pieces more.

In Das Wessobrunner Gebet Hermann Regner again expanded on a piece by Carl Orff. Orff set the 9th century prayer for unison choir. Regner expanded the text and wrote his own continuation of the piece, expanding the whole for mixed choir. The result has a coherency that belies its origins, testament to Regner’s ability to meld with Orff’s style; the piece mixes plainchant-like elements with more rhythmic sections, all with a fine melodic felicity.

The disc finishes with Orff’s Sunt lacrimae rerum, three pieces for six-part male-voice chorus. Here, for the first time on the disc, we enter completely the world of Carmina Burana. All three pieces have the same concerns with rhythm and repetition combined with melodic grace. In fact the faster sections could come straight out of the Tavern sections of Carmina Burana; but no matter, these are wonderfully infectious works, infectiously sung. The choir are admirable in the projection of the fast, tongue-twisting text; Orff would have been proud of the way they bring the rhythmic elements of the texts to the fore whilst not neglecting the vocal beauties of the piece. It is a shame that the tenor soloist, Michael Gann, has such an unfortunately tight voice; the baritone and bass soloists (Rudolf Hillebrand and Ulrich Bayerhof) are admirable.

This is a fascinating recital that enables us to explore Carl Orff’s world. The programme itself would be recommendation enough, but the Carl Orff Choir acquit themselves admirably in all the works. To the Orff and Buchenberg pieces they bring that something extra which makes the music stand out.

Robert Hugill 

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