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Carl ORFF (1895-1982)
Carmina Burana (1936)
Claire Rutter (soprano)
Tom Randle (tenor)
Markus Eiche (baritone)
Highcliffe Junior Choir/Bournemouth Symphony Junior Choir
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Marin Alsop
rec. The Concert Hall, Lighthouse, Poole, May 2006 
NAXOS 8.570033 [60:49]


The world is not short of recommendable recordings of Carmina Burana even at budget price, which means that Naxos’s entrant has high standards to maintain. And in many respects it does. The engineering is generally first class and the performers – all of them – are caught with immediacy. The incisive men’s voices are finely calibrated, and the brass cuts through splendidly in Fortune plango vulnera, though here the lower strings do sound just a touch muddy. Ecce gratum ends I Primo vere with rousing declamation and when Alsop needs to bring out the heavy guns, as here, they are duly brought out.

The girls and women sing graciously in Chramer, gip die varwe mir augmenting the fine orchestral contribution here and elsewhere. They’re attentive in the quieter passages especially and the brass and percussion sections prove strong and assertive in Uf dem anger – with a particularly combustible conclusion to the section. Major responsibilities fall on the soloists. Baritone Markus Eiche is bluffly convincing, full of well-characterised vocalism; the voice is excellently scaled and malleable within its compass. If one has criticisms they centre on the unconvincing head voice in Dies, nox et omnia. Tenor Tom Randle’s delivery is idiosyncratic and won’t be to all tastes; best to sample his way with In Taberna. Of course the tenor is pushed high and sometimes punishingly so but higher up his voice has a strange kind of “halo” around it. Which leaves the soprano Claire Rutter, whose opening statements in the third section Cour d’amours are most impressive – she floats Stetit puella very nicely indeed.

There are plenty of recommendable versions at tempting price. Two of my own favourites are the famous DG Jochum and the less famous Leitner, now reissued on Arts. The former is the more generally recommendable but the latter has virtues of its own, and the recording was supervised by Orff, though there are still concerns over the 1974 sound which is a bit flabby. In view of this the Jochum still holds sway.

Jonathan Woolf



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