Carmina Burana (1937)
Carl Orff (1895 – 1982)
German composer Carl Orff is best know both for his contribution to the teaching of music to children and for his enduring masterpiece, the “secular cantata” Carmina Burana. Conceived as “total theatre”, an art form based on music, words and movement, it echoes Orff’s educational work, featuring extensive percussion, tuneful melodies often based on Gregorian chant, simple harmonies and a strong emphasis on rhythm. Its immediate and overwhelming success prompted Orff to write to his publisher: “Everything I have written to date, and which you have, unfortunately, printed, can be destroyed. With Carmina Burana my collected works begin.”
The title, meaning Songs from Beuren, comes from a collection of 13th century poems found in a monastery near Münich and published in 1837. Orff used 22 poems from the collection. They reflect the wheel of fortune said to govern the earthly pleasures of male life: wine, women and song. The well-known O Fortuna opens and closes the work, reinforcing the cyclic nature of life. Spring reflects the good times and dancing on the green in springtime. The Tavern, an exclusively male preserve, includes the hilarious but distressing image of a swan being chased, caught and roasted from the inside out for consumption by a very drunk Abbot. The Court of Love eloquently and explicitly portrays the joys and travails of young and not so young love before the wheel of fortune turns full circle.
Performed: 15 November 2015