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Carmina Burana
Cadogan Hall
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Carmina Burana
with special guests - The Farnham Youth Choir (dir. Joanna Tomlinson)

Saturday, 02 November 2019, 19:30 - 22:00
Cadogan Hall, 5 Sloane Terrace, London SW1X 9DQ

The lyrics of this popular choral work originate from a set of around 250 poems contained on a 13th century German manuscript and discovered in 1803 in the Benedictine abbey of Benediktbeuern located roughly halfway between Munich and Innsbruck.   Philologist Johann Andreas Schmeller produced a complete edition of the poems and gave it the title Carmina Burana, "Songs of Beuern".  Most of the poems used in the work are in Latin but a few are in Middle High German and are comprised of political, moral, religious, Bacchic, satirical, irreverent and even bawdy verses.
 
Twenty-four of them are used in Carl Orff's work.   The selection covers a wide range of topics, as familiar in the 13th century as they are today : 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.   Religious it most certainly isn't.   Fun it most certainly is.
 
Written in 1936 and first performed to considerable acclaim in June 1937 in Frankfurt, it has always been regarded as an "accessible" piece of music for an audience not normally considered as being lovers of classical music, let alone 20th century classical music.   It was the first of a trilogy of works but has always been the best known of the three, the other two (Catulli Carmina and Trionfo di Afrodite) coming nowhere near the raw power and appeal of the first.   Despite being modern in terms of its creation, it is the basic and simple harmonies and driving rhythms in the music that allow listeners with a variety of musical preferences to feel attracted to it all.
 
Carl Orff (1895-1982) was foremost a music educationalist as well as a composer.  Some music scholars would say that his best music is not in Carmina Burana, but in his "Schülwerk" of 1930-35, a set of musical exercises for schoolchildren that stick in the mind much better than the typical sort of chanting in music lessons.   Orff knew that the way to engage a child's attention was not by clever harmonic progressions, but by clear single-line melodies with robust tunes and lively rhythms, often with a pulse-quickening missed beat or two.   As the composer destroyed all his classical work before Carmina Burana apart from "Schülwerk", he would seem to agree and judging from the music's subsequent success it would seem to work for adults too. 
 
Wimbledon Choral Society is delighted to be sharing the platform with the award-winning Backbeat Percussion Quartet and the excellent Farnham Youth Choir, double Gold Medal winners at the European Choir Games in Sweden 2019, who will be starting the concert with items from their competition-winning repertoire.

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