Carmina Burana (Orff)

Carmina Burana (Latin for Beurer songs or songs from Benediktbeuren ) is the title of a scenic cantata composed by Carl Orff from 1935-36. The texts in Middle Latin and Middle High German language are the Carmina Burana taken from a collection of resulting in the 11th and 12th century song and drama texts.

After the composition of Carmina and Trionfo di Afrodite Catulli Carl Orff Carmina Burana summed up the with these together under the title trionfi. Performances of the entire triptych, but the exception remains.

The Carmina Burana premiered on June 8, 1937 at the Opera House in Frankfurt am Main under the musical direction of Bertil Wetzelsberger and directed by Oskar Wälterlin.


Orff came 1934 on the Johann Andreas Schmeller 1847 published edition of the Carmina Burana. Michel Hofmann, a young law student and Latin and Greek enthusiast, assisted him in the selection and compilation of 24 of these texts for a libretto, mostly in Latin and some in Middle High German and Old French. The selection includes a wide range of secular topics: the fickleness of fortune and prosperity, the fleeting nature of life, the joy of the return of Spring, and the pleasures and perils of drinking, gluttony, gambling and lust.

The setting is a completely new composition. At the time of origin of Orff's work hardly any of the original medieval, listed in neumes melodies was reconstructed. So he created the music for already known stylistic features of the Middle Ages such as bourdon accompaniment or historical scales. Orff himself described his work as neither opera nor oratorio or cantata as. The term " scenic cantata " is the work sometimes added as subtitles. Stage performances of Carmina Burana are significantly over concert music events in the minority.


The Carmina Burana is scored for 3 flutes (two of them alternating with piccolo ), 3 oboes (one alternating with English horn ), 3 clarinets in B and A (one of them alternating with clarinet, one alternating with bass clarinet), 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns in F, 3 trumpets in B and C, 3 trombones, tuba, 2 pianos, celesta, great percussion and strings.

The drum consists of 5 drums ( piccolo ), 2 small drums, bass drum, triangle, different pools, ratchet, castanets, sleigh bells, tam-tam, tambourine, tubular bells, 3 bells, 3 glockenspiels and xylophone.

The vocal parts each comprise a soprano, tenor and baritone soloists, a large four -part chorus with solos for 3 tenors, baritone and two basses, a four-voice chamber choir and a children's choir.

A reduced version for soloists, mixed choir, children's choir, two pianos and percussion was arranged in 1956 by Orff's disciple Wilhelm Killmayer and authorized by Orff.

In addition, an also authorized by Orff processing of Friedrich K. Wanek with five sets exist for ten wind instruments ( Instrumentation: 2 flutes (2nd piccolo ), 2 oboes (2nd also English horn ), 2 clarinets in Bb, 2 horns, 2 bassoons ( 2 also contrabassoon ) ).


Orff chose a division into three parts:

  • Primo vere, Uf dem anger ( awakening of spring, love)
  • In taberna ( sumptuous feast )
  • Cours d' amour et Blanziflor and Helena

Framed the work of a mighty chorus is in honor of the goddess of fate Fortuna ( "Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi " ), which will ultimately determine the fate of people.

Orff was very liberally with the material at hand the Carmina Burana. So he used several poems only parts or single stanzas for his choral work: from the big dialogue of love CB 77, he became only the verse, in which the beloved with Blanziflor, a heroine of the old French knight saga, and with the beautiful Helen is compared, the Trojan the war provoked: Here the composer liked the typical for the Carmina Burana link medieval and ancient educational content. Also, he did not follow the often very complicated time signatures of the songs, sequences and Leichs the manuscript, but invented entirely new, often rousing and dance rhythms to the ancient texts.

Musically, the choral work of refined simplicity: In conventional or archaic harmonies it relies entirely on the strength of his melodies, their simplicity sometimes reminiscent of the Abzählversen. Digestion and further development of motives, there is just as little as a counterpoint in the strict sense.

Effect story

After the successful premiere in 1937, Orff wrote to his publisher: " Everything written so far and what you have unfortunately printed, you can now pulped what I do! With Carmina Burana start my collected works! "

The work quickly became one of the most popular pieces of classical music of the 20th century. Especially during the Nazi dictatorship, it was popular. Nazi leaders such as Hitler and Goebbels said the Carmina Burana by Orff especially. The reviews by the Frankfurt premiere on June 8, 1937 moved the factory in a nearby " degenerate art ". The rhythm of the piece was called " Bavarian nigger music " and the predominant monk Latin texts as " un-German ".

The Carmina Burana have been widely used in other works. In particular, the massive choral writing to CB 17 (O fortuna ), which uses the work is so popular that he is repeatedly used in advertising. IMDb lists more than 60 film and television productions in which the Carmina Burana are used in the soundtrack.