Review by: Victor Carr Jr

Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 4

Eugen Jochum’s first Carmina Burana is a major disappointment sonically, even by 1952 audio standards. The mono recording (ignore the CD’s incorrect labeling as “stereo”) places the soloists and chorus well to the front but relegates the orchestra so far to the background that you almost wonder if it’s in the next room–a major liability in this craftily orchestrated score. On the other hand, the up-close positioning of the vocalists allows you to hear just what type of singing style was in vogue for this work in Germany at the time, and it’s quite surprising.

By today’s standards, the soloists seem far too polite–they’re almost timid in their handling of Orff’s sometimes racy text, and they evoke none of the wonderfully ribald playfulness we get from modern versions such as Spano’s or Blomdstedt’s. Tenor Paul Kuen all but croons his way through the roasting swan song, while it’s hard to imagine baritone Hans Braun’s oh-so-congenial Ego sum abbas summoning anyone to attention. Soprano Elfride Trötschel does float beautiful tones, but she has pitch problems in Dulcissime. The chorus sings in an oddly stentorian, Wagnerian style, with the men in particular sounding as if they wandered in from Tannhäuser. The best thing here is Jochum’s highly idiomatic conducting. But you can hear this to much better effect in his 1968 remake, recorded in well-balanced, wide-ranging stereo, with the marvelous performances from soloists, chorus, and orchestra that made this version a classic.

Catulli Carmina and Trionfo di Afrodite were recorded in 1954/55 in greatly improved sound. The improvements extend to the performances as well–the choral singing is tighter and better focused, while the soloists project greater confidence and enthusiasm. As before, Jochum conducts as if the music were written solely for him, but once again he’s upstaged by his own stereo remake of Catulli Carmina. Given this fact, you might wonder why Deutsche Grammophon didn’t just include the stereo Carmina and Catulli in this commemorative edition in the first place. Of course, such a question is irrelevant to historical buffs, and for them this release undoubtedly will be a treat.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Album Title: TRIONFI
Reference Recording: Carmina & Catulli/Jochum (DG), Catulli & Trionfo/Welser-Most (EMI)

CARL ORFF - Carmina Burana; Catulli Carmina; Trionfo di Afrodite

  • Annelies Kupper, Elisabeth Lindermeier, Elfride Trötschel, Elisabeth Wiese-Lange (soprano)
    Ratko Delorko, Richard Holm, Paul Kuen (tenor)
    Hans Braun (baritone)
    Kurt Böhme (bass)
  • Jochum, Eugen (conductor)
  • Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra

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