Carl Orff – Carmina Burana
Gundula Janowitz: soprano, Gerhard Stolze: tenor, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau: baritone
Chor und Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin
Eugen Jochum, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon, 1968 (1996)
If Carmina Burana is Carl Orff’s best known work, this is its most famous recording. Performed for the first time in Frankfurt in 1937, Carmina burana was Orff’s first major success. Although Orff chose twenty-four poems from a collection found in 1803 in the Benedictine monastery of Benediktbeuern in Bavaria, it was Igor Stravinsky who inspired him from the musical point of view. The composer himself approved this album, made in 1967, so that it became the most classic recording of his masterpiece. And it should definitely be “classic”, especially considering the outstanding achievement of conductor Eugen Jochum, the ideal voices of the three soloists, and the fine playing and singing of the Chor und Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin.
It is conductor Eugen Jochum who steals the show in this recording of Carmina Burana. A refined interpreter of the music of Bach, Mozart and Bruckner, Jochum brings in Carmina Burana his insight and keenness. The sound he draws from the orchestra is not only a superficial display of brilliance, but it is the way to express a deeper meaning, to reveal something that goes beyond the music.
When you listen to the sparkling Ecce gratum, or to the charming Chramer, and above all to the wonderful rendition of Ave formosissima (which reveals the sumptuousness and charm of an operatic finale), you immediately realize that there is a precise thought behind the notes, a thought that is even more manifest in deeply atmospheric pieces as the evocative Veris leta facies, with its processional pace. Mesmerising from the famous beginning of O Fortuna, with its emphatic rhythm that shortly after is replaced by a brisk, fluid development that reminds of an orchestral fuga, Jochum’s Carmina are constantly stirring.
To achieve this result, there is no place here for useless excesses. In fact, one of the best features of Jochum’s conduction is his ability to keep a crystalline transparency throughout the work. It is in this way that he can give prominence to the radiant colours of the orchestra and to his own inspiration with such efficacy.
Soloists and Chorus
Not only the conductor, but the singers too are the most suitable you could wish for Carmina Burana. Soprano Gundula Janowitz, with her rich timbre, has the most beautiful voice which has ever sung Cour d’amours. Tenor Gerhard Stolze has a flexible, smooth voice able to express the subtlest nuances of the text. As for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, he does not need any introduction having being one of the greatest baritones of the last century – greatness that he completely reveals in this recording. It would be enough to listen to Ego sum abbas to be fascinated by his authoritative, powerful voice.
Finally the Chor der Deutschen Oper Berlin sings with zest and energy. The result would not have been the same without its amazing, well-trained voices and without its lustrous tone – so well matched with the glorious orchestral sound.