Carl Orff (10.07.1895 – 29.03.1982) was a German composer who is remembered chiefly for one work; namely his Carmina Burana. This work is a scenic cantata based on 24 poems from the medieval collection Carmina Burana: Cantiones profanæ cantoribus et choris cantandæ comitantibus instrumentis atque imaginibus magicis.
In his one masterpiece, Orff combines music, words and movement to produce an almost overwhelming effect. On first acquaintance Carmina Burana appears somewhat paradoxical in its combination of tunefulness and somewhat brutal percussiion. Furthermore the work seems to be an amalgam of primitive, modern and medieval masterpieces. The composer requires a large orchestra to produce the strong colours and a large percussion section (five players) to add to the drama of the piece.
Our favourite recording of this work dates back to the 1970s and features the soloists, Sheila Armstrong (soprano), Gerald English (tenor) & Thomas Allen (baritone) with the London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus and St Clement Danes Grammar School Boys’ Choir conducted by André Previn. This is a vividly characterised performance packed full of real emotion which one cannot help but enjoy. The sense of mischief in the young boys’ voices when they sing some of the ‘rude’ words is a joy to behold!