Monday, May 25, 2009

Profanely Beautiful: Carmina Burana

Carl Orff's Carmina Burana is a boldly raucous faux-religious masterpiece celebrating, of all things, the life of the commoner in the 13th century.  The piece is inspired by a collection of 24 medieval poems. They are secular songs for singers and choruses to be sung together with instruments and magic images which mimic grand church music.
The lyrics are fairly useless unless one remembers  Latin verse.  Further, Orff throws some Middle High German and Old Provençal. Even though the piece is sung as if it were a Biblical acclimation, the subject matter covers a wide range of secular topics: the fickleness of fortune and wealth, the ephemeral nature of life, the joy of the return of Spring, and the pleasures and perils of drinking, gluttony, gambling and lust.  Clearly not religious issues.

 The drawing of the wheel found on the first page of the Burana Codexincludes four phrases around the outside of the wheel and the musc is based on the idea of the turning Fortuna Wheel.

The recording on this Youtube presentation is not particularly well done and is a bit slow in tempo and lacks the crispness of the recording I enjoy.  Nonetheless, it offers the first-time listener a good audio and visual presesntation of the piece.

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