Friday, December 5, 2014

Orff - Carmina Burana, A Scenic Cantata

In addition to being a composer and conductor, Carl Orff was a leader in the development of musical education for young people. His Schulwerk integrated movement, singing, playing and improvising. Percussion instruments played a major role in the innovative ways he and others used in teaching children music as a basic language.

As a composer, Orff's music was part of the movement away from 19th century Romanticism that began late in the 19th century and increased at the turn of the 20th. His music reflected his love of percussion, the elemental parts of music such as simple melody as well as repetitive accompaniment. He eventually focused on composing works based on texts and topics from the ancient world. His scenic cantata Carmina Burana was composed in 1936 and was the first part of a trilogy of compositions for vocalists and orchestra. The other two works of the trilogy Catulli Carmina and Trionfo di Afrodite are seldom performed or recorded. Carmina Burana is not only the most well known and popular of the trilogy, but it is one of the most performed and recorded works of the 20th century.

Orff used 24 poems from the 254 poems and songs that were contained in a volume named Carmina Burana (Songs from Beuern) that were copied out in the 13th century, although the poems and songs range from the 11th to the 13th centuries. The poems are in Medieval Latin, early German and Old French and are thought to have been written by the Goliards, a group of clergy and students that satirized and criticized the Church. The poems and songs in the collection deal with many subjects, but mostly with the sins of earthly delights such as gambling, drinking and sex. Evidently the Goliards spent a lot of their time nose-thumbing authority (especially that of the Church).  The collection is a representation of a medieval movement that spread throughout Europe as songs and poems came from England, The Holy Roman Empire, Scotland, France, Spain and other regions with most of them written in medieval Latin, a language used by scholars and students all across Europe.

Neumes over medieval text
The manuscript of Carmina Burana lay in the library of Benediktbeuern Abbey in Bavaria for centuries until it was discovered in 1803. After a complicated history, the text was published in 1847.  About 25% of the original contents of theCarmina Burana were accompanied by neumes, an early form of musical notation that had no staff lines and  indicated by small marks over words and syllables whether a note was higher or lower than the previous one.

Orff's setting of Carmina Burana consists of 25 movements that are divided into five sections. The work is scored for a large orchestra with a very large percussion section, piano, chorus, and baritone, tenor and soprano soloists.  Sections are given Latin and English translation. Movement names are the first line of the text used - with the original language used for titles of each movement.

A) Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi - Fortune, Empress Of The World 
The first section consists of two movements that deal with the uncontrollable forces of Fortune and Fate:
1. Oh Fortuna  - 
O Fortune,
Like the moon
You are changeable,
ever waxing and waning.
Hateful life, first oppresses,
and then soothes as fancy takes it;
poverty, and power it melts them like ice.
Wheel Of Fortune from Carmina Burana manuscript
Fate - monstrous and empty,
you whirling wheel,
you are malevolent,
well-being is in vain
and always fades to nothing,
shadowed and veiled
you plague me too;
now through the game
I bring my bare back
To your villainy.
Fate is against me
in health and virtue,
driven on and weighted down,
always enslaved.
So at this hour without delay
pluck the vibrating strings;
since Fate strikes down the strong man,
everyone weep with me!

2. Fortune Plango Vulnera - 
I bemoan the wounds of Fortune
with weeping eyes,
for the gifts she made me
she perversely takes away.
It is written in truth,
that she has a fine head of hair,
but, when it comes to seizing an
she is bald.
On Fortune’s throne
I used to sit raised up,
crowned with
the many-colored flowers of prosperity;
though I may have flourished
happy and blessed,
now I fall from the peak
deprived of glory.
The wheel of Fortune turns:
I go down, demeaned;
another is raised up;
far too high up
sits the king at the summit –
let him fear ruin!
for under the axis is written
Queen Hecuba.

B) Primo Vere -  In Spring
Three movements that deal with the renewal that comes with spring. 
3. Veris leta facies - 
[Small choir]
The merry face of spring
turns to the world,
sharp winter
now flees, vanquished;
bedecked in various colors
Flora reigns,
the harmony of the woods

praises her in song. Ah!
Lying in Flora’s lap
Phoebus once more
smiles, now covered
in many-colored flowers,
Zephyr breathes nectar scented
Let us rush to compete
for love’s prize. Ah!
In harp-like tones sings
the sweet nightingale,
with many flowers
the joyous meadows are laughing,
a flock of birds rises up
through the pleasant forests,
the chorus of maidens
already promises a thousand joys. Ah.

4. Omnia Sol temperat -
[Baritone solo]
The sun warms everything,
pure and gentle,
once again it reveals to the world
April’s face,
the soul of man
is urged towards love
and joys are governed
Illustrtation from Carmina Burana manuscript
by the boy-god.
All this rebirth
in spring’s festivity
and spring’s power
bids us to rejoice;
it shows us paths we know well,
and in your springtime
it is true and right
to keep what is yours.
Love me faithfully!
See how I am faithful:
With all my heart
and with all my soul,
I am with you
Even when I am far away.
Whoever loves this much
turns on the wheel.

5. Ecce gratum - 
Behold the pleasant
and longed-for
spring brings back joyfulness,
violet flowers
fill the meadows,
the sun brightens everything,
sadness is now at an end!
Summer returns,
now withdraw
the rigors of winter. Ah!
Now melts
and disappears
ice, snow, and the rest,
winter flees,
and now
spring sucks at summer’s breast:
A wretched soul is he
who does not live
or lust
under summer’s rule. Ah!
They glory
and rejoice
in honeyed sweetness
who strive
to make use of
Cupid’s prize;
At Venus’ command
let us glory
and rejoice
in being Paris’ equals. Ah!

C.) Uf Dem Anger - On The Green 
6. Dance -  An instrumental of rhythmic vitality. While much of Carmina Burana seems simple to the point of primitive, the rhythmic scheme of this movement (as well as others) demonstrates the rhythmic complexity of the score.

7. Floret Silva -  Women lament lovers riding off on horses which Orff depicts in sound by the male voice's decrescendo.
The noble woods are burgeoning
with flowers and leaves,
Where is the lover
I knew? Ah!
He has ridden off!
Oh! Who will love me? Ah!
The woods are burgeoning all over,
I am pining for my lover,
The woods are turning green all over,
why is my lover away so long? Ah!
He has ridden off,
Oh woe, who will love me? Ah!

8. Chramer, gip die varwe mir
[Small and large choir]
Shopkeeper, give me color
to make my cheeks red,
so that I can make the young men
love me, against their will
Look at me,
young men!
Let me please you!
Good men, love
women worthy of love!
Love ennobles your spirit
and gives you honor.
Look at me, etc.
Hail, world,
so rich in joys!
I will be obedient to you
because of the pleasures you afford.
Look at me, etc.

9.  This movement is in 4 parts and begins with an instrumental round dance that is punctuated in the bass by the contra bassoon. The language of the songs in this movement are Latin and Middle German: 
i) Round Dance
ii) Swaz hie gat umbe 
Violins are strummed like lutes in this rapid song:
Those who go round and round
are all maidens,
they want to do without a man
all summer long. Ah! Sla!
iii) Chume, chum, geselle min 
[Small choir]
Come, come, my love,
I long for you.
Sweet rose-red lips,
come and make me better.
iv) Swaz hie gat umbe (repeat)
Those who go round and round
are all maidens,
they want to do without a man
all summer long. Ah! Sla!

10. Were diu werlt alle min 
If all the world were mine
from the sea to the Rhine,
I would do without it
if the Queen of England
would lie in my arms. Hey!

D) In Taberna - In The Tavern
11. Estuans interius 
Burning inside
with violent anger,
bitterly I speak my heart:
Created from matter,
of the ashes of the elements,
I am like a leaf
played with by the winds.
If it is the way
of the wise man
to build
foundations on stone,
then I am a fool, like
a flowing stream,
which in its course
never changes.
I am carried along
like a ship without a steersman,
and in the paths of the air
like a light, hovering bird;
chains cannot hold me,
keys cannot imprison me,
I look for people like me
and join the wretches.
The heaviness of my heart
seems a burden to me;
it is pleasant to joke
and sweeter than honeycomb;
whatever Venus commands
is a sweet duty,
she never dwells
in a lazy heart.
I travel the broad path
as is the way of youth,
I give myself to vice,
unmindful of virtue,
I am eager for the pleasures of the flesh
more than for salvation,
my soul is dead,
so I shall look after the flesh.

12. Olim lacus colueram
The tenor has to reach beyond the normal range of  his voice to sing (or rather screech) the story of a swan roasting on a spit over an open fire - from the vantage point of the swan!  

[Tenor and male choir]
The roasted swan sings:
Once I lived on lakes,
once I looked beautiful
when I was a swan.

Misery me!
Now black
and roasting fiercely!

The servant is turning me on the spit;
I am burning fiercely on the pyre;
the steward now serves me up.

Misery me! etc.

Now I lie on a plate,
and cannot fly anymore,
I see bared teeth:

Misery me! etc.

Illustration from Carmina Burana manuscript
13. Ego sum abbas -  
A song about boozing, gambling and literally losing your shirt at the tavern.
[Baritone and male choir]
I am the abbot of Cockaigne
and my assembly is one of drinkers,
and I wish to be in the order of Decius,
and whoever searches me out at the
tavern in the morning,
after Vespers he will leave naked,
and thus stripped of his clothes he will call
Woe! Woe!
what have you done, vilest Fate?
The joys of my life
you have taken all away!

14. In taberna quando sumus 
The ultimate drinking song as male voices extoll the pleasures of boozing it up in Medieval times, where it appears everyone drank a lot (according to this song)
[Male choir]
When we are in the tavern,
we do not think how we will go to dust,
but we hurry to gamble,
which always makes us sweat,
What happens in the tavern,
where money is host,
you may well ask,
and hear what I say.
Some gamble, some drink,
some behave loosely.
But of those who gamble,
some are stripped bare,
some win their clothes here,
some are dressed in sacks.
Here no-one fears death,
but they throw the dice in the name of Bacchus.
First of all it is to the wine-merchant
that the libertines drink,
one for the prisoners,
three for the living,
four for all Christians,
five for the faithful dead.
six for the loose sisters,
Illustration from Carmina Burana manuscript
seven for the footpads in the wood.
Eight for the errant brethren,
nine for the dispersed monks,
ten for the seamen,
eleven for the squabblers,
twelve for the penitent,
thirteen for the wayfarers.
To the Pope as to the king
they all drink without restraint.
The mistress drinks, the master drinks,
the soldier drinks, the priest drinks,
the man drinks, the woman drinks,
the servant drinks with the maid,
the swift man drinks, the lazy man drinks,
the white man drinks, the black man drinks,
the settled man drinks, the wanderer drinks,
the stupid man drinks, the wise man drinks,
The poor man drinks, the sick man drinks,
the exile drinks, and the stranger,
the boy drinks, the old man drinks,
the bishop drinks, and the deacon,
the sister drinks, the brother drinks,
the old lady drinks, the mother drinks,
this man drinks, that man drinks,
a hundred drink, a thousand drink.
Six hundred pennies would hardly suffice, if everyone
drinks immoderately and immeasurably.
However much the cheerfully drink
we are the ones whom everyone scolds,
and thus we are destitute.
May those who slander us be cursed
and may their names not be written in the
book of the righteous.
Io, io, io!

E) Cour d'amours  - Court Of Love
15. Amor volat undique
[Soprano and boy's choir]
Cupid flies everywhere
seized by desire.
Young men and women
are rightly coupled.
The girl without a lover
misses out on all pleasures,
she keeps the dark night
hidden in the depth of her heart;
it is a most bitter fate.

16. Dies, nox et omnia
Day, night, and everything
is against me,
the chattering of maidens
makes me weep,
and often sigh,
and, most of all, scares me.
O friends, you are making fun of me,
you do not know what you are saying,
spare me, sorrowful as I am,
great is my grief,
advise me at least,
by your honor.
Your beautiful face,
makes me weep a thousand times,
your heart is of ice.
As a cure,
I would be revived
by a kiss.

17. Stetit puella
A girl stood
in a red tunic;
if anyone touched it,
the tunic restled.
A girl stood
like a little rose:
her face was radiant
and her mouth in bloom.

18. Circa mea pectora
The chorus of this song repeats the word mandeliet, and there is a bone of contention among scholars as to its exact meaning.  Without pinning a definition to the word, it is perhaps the medieval equivelent of  neener, neener, you can't have me!
[Baritone and choir]
In my heart
there are many sighs
for your beauty,
which wound me sorely. Ah!

my lover
does not come.

Your eyes shine
like the rays of the sun,
like the flashing of lightening
which brightens the darkness. Ah!

Mandaliet, etc.

May God grant, may the gods grant
what I have in my mind
that I may loose
the chains of her virginity, Ah!

Mandaliet, etc.

19.  Si puer cum puellula
[Baritone, 3 tenors, 2 basses]
If a boy with a girl
tarries in a little room,
happy is their coupling.
Love rises up,
and between them
prudery is driven away,
an ineffable game begins
in their limbs, arms and lips.

20.Veni, veni, venias
[Double choir]
Come, come, O come,
do not let me die,
hyrca, hyrce, nazaza,
Beautiful is your face,
the gleam of your eye,
your braided hair,
what a glorious creature!
Redder than the rose,
whiter than the lily,
lovelier than all others,
I shall always glory in you!

21. In trutina 
In the wavering balance of my feelings
set against each other
lascivious love and modesty.
But I choose what I see,
and submit my neck to the yoke;
I yield to the sweet yoke.

22.Tempus est iocundum
[Soprano, baritone, boy's choir]
This is the joyful time,
O maidens,
rejoice with them,
young men!
Oh, oh, oh!
I am bursting out all over!
I am burning all over with first love!
New, new love is what I am dying of!
I am heartened
by my promise,
I am downcast
by my refusal.
Oh! oh! oh! etc.
In the winter
man is patient,
the breath of spring
makes him lust.
Oh! oh! oh! etc.
My virginity
makes me frisky,
my simplicity
holds me back.
Oh! oh! oh! etc.
Come, my mistress,
with joy,
come, come, my pretty,
I am dying!
Oh! oh! oh! etc.

23. Dulcissime
A musical depiction of a female orgasm as the soprano reaches the stratosphere of her range.[Soprano]
Sweetest one! Ah!
I give myself to you totally!

Blanziflor et Helena -
24. Ave formosissima
Tribute is paid to two women; Blanchefleur -  female heroine first heard of in a romantic tale heard across Europe in the 12th century, and Helen - the same Helen of Troy from Greek mythology, the most beautiful woman in the world. 
Hail, most beautiful one,
precious jewel,
Hail, Pride among virgins,
glorious virgin,
Hail, light of the world,
Hail, rose of the world,
Blanchefleur and Helen,
noble Venus!

25.  Oh Fortuna  - 
A repeat of the beginning of the work. The wheel of Fortune has come full circle.
O Fortune,
Like the moon
You are changeable,
ever waxing and waning.
Hateful life, first oppresses,
and then soothes as fancy takes it;
poverty, and power it melts them like ice.
Fate - monstrous and empty,
you whirling wheel,
you are malevolent,
well-being is in vain
and always fades to nothing,
shadowed and veiled
you plague me too;
now through the game
I bring my bare back
To your villainy.
Fate is against me
in health and virtue,
driven on and weighted down,
always enslaved.
So at this hour without delay
pluck the vibrating strings;
since Fate strikes down the strong man,
everyone weep with me!

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