Laura Claycomb, soprano; Barry Banks, tenor; Christopher Maltman, baritone
London Symphony Chorus
London Symphony Orchestra
Richard Hickox, conductor
Carmina Burana was performed for the first time in Frankfurt on June 8, 1937 and was the first major success of composer Carl Orff, who boasted with his editor: «Everything I have written to date, and which you have (unfortunately) printed, can be destroyed. With Carmina burana, my collected works begin!»
The caesura in Orff’s creative style was determined by the discovery of the Latin language and especially by the poet Catullus, which led him to the exploration of Classicism and to the roots of European culture. This is the reason why, between 1935 and 1936, he wrote Carmina Burana on twenty-four poems taken from a medieval collection (with the same name) found in 1803 in the Benedictine monastery of Benediktbeuern in Bavaria. The collection gathered over two hundred and fifty poems written by clerical students and monks for satirical purposes. The collection was published in 1847 by philologist Johann Andreas Schmeller and Orff discovered it in 1934. He was assisted by a law student and expert of Greek and Latin languages, Michel Hofmann, in the choice of poems, written for the major part in Latin but sometimes in Middle High German and in Provençal, and then organized them around the theme of the turning Fortuna Wheel, one of the favourites of Middle Ages.
Musically speaking, Carmina Burana reveals the influence of Igor Stravinsky, of whom Orff was a great admirer, and in some sections of the work there are easily recognizable echoes from the ballets Les Noces and Petrushka.
Carmina burana, together with Catulli carmina (written in 1941–3) and Trionfo di Afrodite (1949–51) were later grouped into the triptych Trionfi by Orff himself.
The present recording may not be the best ever released, but features a good conduction and excellent chorus and orchestra. I have noticed the tendency of conductor Richard Hickox to choose rather fast times and to lead the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus with firmness, conferring to the most lively pieces a resolute character and gives to the quietest ones a mysterious (Veris leta facies) or joyous atmosphere (this last characterizes the nice Floret Silva or the brilliant Were diu werlt alle min). The conduction is overall interesting and effective.
As for the soloists, they are overall fine, especially soprano Laura Claycomb, who strands out of her beautiful voice and interpretation, and baritone Christopher Maltman with his fine performance in Omnia sol temperat and Estuans interius. Tenor Barry Banks is definitely less impressive and his singing denotes some weaknesses.
I would like to add a few words about the recording technique. The SACD technology is an extremely valuable technique for the vivid and clear sound thanks to which you are able to guess the minimal vibrations of the orchestra, but sometimes the volume becomes a little too loud and chorus and timpani are annoying.