Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Carl Orff - Carmina Burana (Philadelphia Orchestra & Rutgers University Choir)

You know "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana even if you don't know that you do. It's one of the most overplayed pieces of classical music not written by Pachabel (and if you think Pachabel's Canon is a nice piece of music, I need you to stop reading and go walk into oncoming traffic). Somewhere in the last decade, Hollywood discovered that "O Fortuna" is an intense piece of music, and they decided to use it for anything they deem intense. You've heard the song in about 3 kajillion football promos. The funny thing about "O Fortuna" is that it is an appeal to the goddess of fortune, but it's hardly the "Luck Be a Lady" you'd think. It's more of a lament about the fact that even if fortune does smile upon you for a moment, you're still going to die like the dirtiest dog or poorest pauper. The song is a lamentation on the perils of fate. Even if you tried to explain its inclusion in everything Hollywood deems intense, it is rarely used in events that match the intended meaning of the song.

"O Fortuna" aside, Carmina Burana is an interesting work. Never before did source material that is basically about imbibing spirits and partaking in various forms of debauchery sound so inspired. I don't know how Orff read the poems that make up the text of Carmina Burana and thought, "This would make a wonderful cantata!" and not "Gee these medieval poets were naughty!" This is as secular as secular music gets in the field of classical music. Anyway, I know there are those who find Carmina Burana overrated and generally annoying, but I still love it. I knew it as a kid before it became the bedding music of every sports promo in the universe, and I'm still able to enjoy it despite its status. This particular recording by the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Rutgers University Choir is fine by me, as are most things on the Sony Classical imprint.

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