Carmina Burana by Carl Orff
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Nšnie by Johannes Brahms
Spring 2008 Concert Notes
Joseph Jacovino, Jr., Accompanist
Litchfield County Children's Choir
Connecticut Master Chorale Orchestra
Saturday May 17, 2008 - 8:00pm
St. Rose of Lima Church, Newtown, Connecticut
Carmina Burana – Carl Orff
1895 - 1982
Carmina Burana, described by German composer Carl Orff as a ‘scenic cantata’, is a setting of 24 poems that were discovered in sanctified confines of the Bavarian monastery of Benediktbeuren. The Latin title, which translates as Songs of Beuren was assigned by the poet Johann Andreas Schmeller in 1847. Beuren refers to the abbey of Benediktbeuren, founded in 733, which was in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps not far from Munich, the birthplace of the composer.
At first sight of the collection, Carl Orff was immediately inspired and selected 24 of the original 228 poems, arranging the texts into three parts while opening and closing with “O, Fortuna”. This became Carmina Burana, subtitled “Cantiones Profane”, or “Secular Songs”. The composition was completed in 1936 and made its debut on June 8, 1937 in Frankfurt and was an instant success. Shortly after this, Carl Orff wrote to his publisher, “Everything I have written to date, and which you have unfortunately printed, can be destroyed. With Carmina Burana, my collected works begin.”
The texts and the music evoke magical pictures for anyone with ears to hear. And there is another, rather special magic that is probably the most striking single quality in this composer’s most works: a way of eliciting an almost physical response from the listener. The texts of Carmina Burana celebrate life, love, nature, spring and summer, music, and dance.
Rhythm holds the most supreme place in Orff’s compositional method. Next in importance is melody. Harmony is in its most primitive manifestation, with chant and folk song playing an important role. Orff makes the optimum use of percussion instruments to enhance his rhythmic favor.
Carmina Burana reached the United States in January 1954 and remains enormously popular. Portions of this exhilarating music are often used in commercials and films. Next to Handel’s Messiah, it is probably the most widely performed choral piece in the entire world. The unparalleled level of excitement and exuberance found in this thrilling composition make it a memorable experience for singers and audience alike.
Nšnie – Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms was recognized in his lifetime as a musical genius whose classical inclination was combined with Romanticism. He had the classicist’s respect for form and tradition, but combined that structure with emotion and poetic expression.
One of Brahms’ most exquisitely beautiful choral works, Nšnie was composed in 1881 as a tribute to the German painter Anslem Feuerbach, who had been a close friend. The title comes from the ancient Latin word noenia, an elegy traditionally sung by the parents of the deceased. The funeral ode by the great German author Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) is a meditation on the death of all things, particularly the young and beautiful. The poem refers to the unnecessary and untimely deaths of Eurydice, Adonis and Achilles of Greek mythology and illustrates that idea that “Even beauty must perish”.
The musical setting mourns the transitory quality of all things; life, love, beauty and heroic glory. It might have been a profoundly gloomy work, but Brahms makes it serene and accepting, with soaring and hovering melodic lines as the voices unfold and intertwine. Nšnie is immortal music which expresses the philosophy that beauty is not lost forever if it remains in the hearts of the living.