Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Kurt Eichhorn – Carl Orff – Carmina Burana

Romantic ideologies initiated the interest in folk culture so the estimate to the achievements of past eras. Zeal with which ancient stories had been valued gave them position of Wisdom texts. This mechanism had striking continuation in twentieth-century art, especially in German-speaking countries and in the works associated with the expressionist style. One of the works, have made most success was Carl Orff's cantata Carmina burana. The text of the work originated in Middle Ages but its idea was purely romantic. In 1847 German philologist Johann Andreas Schmeller published the choice of wandering scholars poetry titled Carmina burana. The cycle of songs by anonymous authors of 13th and 14th century has been collected by Benedictine monks in Monastery of Benediktbeuren and occured priceless testimony of late mediaeval culture. In 1935 composer Carl Orff with the philological help from Michel Hofmann selected 24 texts from Schmeller’s edition and arranged them into libretto of cantata, next year the composition was ready and June 8, 1937 in Frankfurt Opera work has been premiered.
First stage performance of Carmina Burana was set in decorations designed by Ludwig Sievert. According to his design stage was stylized to imitate mediaeval church presbytery. Gothic choir stalls looked as it were authentic, but in the place of main altar Sievert placed gigantic wheel of Fortune. This scenography was trying to suggest listener main ideas of Orff’s cantata. Both in lyrics and in music mixing religious sublimity, emotional freedom and liberal sensory decided about unique style of this work. A subtle allusion to the wheel of fortune and some reminiscence of premiere setup one can find in design of maybe first really loud and acclaimed staging after the war. It was made by Helmut Jürgens for Munich Prinzregententheater in season 1959/1960. And this project was used as cover design of the record published in 1973 under the Ariola-Eurodisc label.

Kurt Eichhorn - Carl Orff's Carmina Burana (1973)

One of the best Carmina burana ever published on records is the rendition executed on July 1973 in Munich. It is quite an opposition to most frequent romantic-style, highly elevated in volume, expression and emotional meaning performances. Does not mean that something is missing here. Selectivity of the sound, ideal articulation and rhythmic perfection gives this rendition the full spectrum of emotional and semantic contents of the work. Conductor of this performance, Kurt Eichhorn did an excellent job. He connected individual tendencies into bunch of heterogeneous expressions but building them into one dramatic musical narration.
Traditionally there is trio of beautiful solo voices of soprano Lucia Popp, tenor John van Kesteren and baritone Hermann Prey. But this record features also sextet of male voices tenors Karl Kreile, Anton Rosner, Heinrich Weber and basses Paul Hansen, Günter Häussler, Josef Weber. Nice and perfectly sound two choirs Der Chor des Bayerishen Rundfunks and Der Tölzer Knabenchor. Undoubtedly the orchestra has done stunning work. Musicians of Münchner Rundfunkorchester found their place both in various cameral lineups and in luscious orchestral tutti parts. Balancing between expression of individuality and power of massive cooperation helped artists reveal how colorful and complex this score can be. I don’t have any idea if composer himself was engaged in preparing the recording but simple fact he was close in geographic and social meaning had to affect the record image of this work.

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