Poems From the Middle Ages Used In Carl Orff’s Epic Cantata, Carmina Burana

One of special treats the fetching Mrs. B and I experienced in Jones Hall in downtown Houston, was when we attended, a couple of years ago, Carl Orff’s epic haunting cantata,Carmina Burana. It was performed by our Grammy Award winning Houston Symphony Orchestra [and chorus].

This from Wikipedia: “Carmina Burana is a scenic cantata composed in 1935 and 1936 by Carl Orff, based on 24 poems from the Medieval collection Carmina Burana.”  “The first and last movements of the piece are called “Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi” (“Fortune, Empress of the World”) and start with the very well known “O Fortuna”. “The selection covers a wide range of topics, as familiar in the 13th century as they are in the 21st century: the fickleness of fortune and wealth, the ephemeral nature of life, the joy of the return of Spring, and the pleasures and perils of drinking, gluttony, gambling, and lust.”  

From the Houston Symphony Orchestra Website: “Bold and bawdy, fiery and visceral, Carmina Burana is one of the most instantly-recognizable pieces in all of music. Escape into this intoxicating ode to life, lust and all things earthy, an unforgettable concert experience that thrills with haunting medieval chants, dynamic spectacle and sheer sonic force.

Carmina Burana is a very long piece of 25 movements that takes just over an hour to perform. On You Tube is a great performance of it recently performed, Oct. 29, 2022, by the WDR Symphony Orchestra with Maestro Cristian Măcelaru, conducting. This piece starts out strong and exciting and ends strong and exciting as probably the most popular movements in this long piece are the first two and the last two, with the O Fortuna (reprise) climax that will have audience come to their feet with a loud ovation when finished. The first movement is the well known “O Fortuna” theme that you will know even if you have never heard Carmina Burana. The second movement in this video,  “Fortune une plango vulnera” goes from 2:27 – 5:05. The 24th movement, Ave Formosissima” begins at 56:25, with the final exciting movement, O Fortuna (reprise) starting at the 58:04 mark.

Please turn up the volume, play in full screen and enjoy Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana”

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