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Work of the Week – Carl Orff: Carmina Burana

Work of the Week – Carl Orff: Carmina Burana

Carmina Burana by Carl Orff is undoubtedly among the most popular symphonic choral works. Paul Leonhard Schäffer’s new reduced version offers smaller ensembles the opportunity to perform this large-scale work, whilst maintaining the “original sound”. Schäffer’s version will be heard for the first time on June 19, 2022 in Visp, Switzerland, performed by both Oberwalliser Vokalensemble and the Chaarts Ensemble, conducted by Hansruedi Kampfen. A further performance will follow on June 25, 2022 in Boswil.


Carmina Burana by Carl Orff in a reduced version – a smaller version

Orff’s scenic cantata Carmina Burana, composed in 1936 and premiered in June 1937 in Frankfurt, consists of 25 songs (Latin “carmina”), selected by Orff from a collection of medieval texts with the help of archivist Michel Hofmann. The songs centre around distinctively ‘human’ themes: in addition to the joy of spring, love and dance, they also tell of a rather rough pub culture. The chorus O Fortuna appears at the beginning and end of Carmina Burana, about which Hofmann writes:

Just as human life is clamped in the iron structure of fate, so too at the beginning and end of the whole cantata there is a chorus to the capricious goddess of fate […]; The music reflects the unyielding statics of the timeless supremacy of fate, but also the unbroken courage of those who do not fall silent before it, but conjure up, banish and overcome it. Michel Hofmann

After a period of silence for Orff and his Carmina Burana in the past two years, the work is now finding its place again on the stages of concert halls and opera houses. In the coming weeks, the work will be performed in Duisburg, Luxembourg, Kroměříž in the Czech Republic and Manchester, to name but a few.


photo: Gianni /Adobe Stock