Carmina Burana – Cantiones profanae Cantoribus et choris cantandae comitantibus instrumentis atque imaginibus magicis (1935/36)

»I was assailed by images and words.«[1]

Up until this point, Orff had only been known to the general public as a musical educationalist and specialist for ancient music and only achieved his breakthrough as a composer through the first performance of Carmina Burana in Frankfurt/Main in 1937. This work displayed the unmistakable ›Orff style‹ in its full-blown version from both musical and dramatic-scenic aspects.

Carmina Burana did not by any means receive the undivided approval of the authorities in power at the time. Criticism was expressed regarding the »incomprehensibility« of the Latin language and the hint of a »jazz atmosphere«. The second scenic performance did not take place until 1940 in Dresden. Although Orff’s music was not banned, it remained controversial  and was observed critically.[2]


»In the score of the Werfel Cantata [...], the first clear contours of a style constructed from bourdon and ostinato can be discerned which finally blossomed in Carmina Burana. A particular stylistic characteristic of the Carmina Burana music is its static architectural form.

The strophic structure does not permit any development. A musical formulation which has been established – the instrumentation was always included right from the start – remains identical in all its repetitions. The brevity of the statement permits its repeatability and effect.«[3]


[1] CO-Dok IV,38; [2] Thomas Rösch, OZM; [3] CO-Dok IV,43
Abb.: OZM
Audio: Muhai Tang - WER 6275-2

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