Showcase May-June 2014 - page 34

Program Notes / Text
june 26, 27, 28, 29
O Fortuna
is a massive structural pillar—a brief exordium,
then a crescendo and acceleration built over nearly 100
measures, all of them glued to the insistent tonic D.
Fortune plango vulnera
, with its chantlike beginning, is a
variant on a smaller scale of the opening chorus.
The three spring poems introduce brighter colors, though
the first two,
Veris leta facies
Omnia sol temperat
continue with melodies close to chant. With
Ecce gratum
Orff completes the transformation of atmosphere by
moving into the major mode.
The sequence
On the Green
begins with a lively dance
for the orchestra alone. The harmony sticks to tonic and
dominant, but Orff allows himself delightful metrical
Floret silva
alternates the big and small
choruses. The sly slurs on “meus amicus” are charming,
as is the picture of the lover riding off into the distance.
The softly curved
Chramer, gip die varwe mir
, the song of
the girl out to buy some makeup, is separated by another
instrumental dance from the uninhibited
Swaz hie gat
Were diu werlt alle min
, in which erotic ambition
extends to nothing less than the possession of the Queen of
England (the energetic Eleanor of Provence, wife of Henry
III), ends with an exultant shout.
Orff regards the tavern as a male preserve, and he begins
with an unbridled setting for baritone solo of
. Then comes one of the most famous and
original pieces in the cantata,
Olim lacus colueram
Lament of the Roast Swan). The bassoon initiates the
pitiful keening, which is then continued by a tenor with
the sympathetic assistance of piccolo, E-flat clarinet and
muted trumpet—with flutes, viola, a muted trombone and
assorted percussion to provide musical gooseflesh (or swan
flesh). The Abbot of Cockaigne, who has been partaking of
more than just roast swan, lurches forward to pronounce
his fierce little credo, whereupon the whole male chorus
plunges into its whirling catalogue of toasts and drinkers.
Cockaigne is that medieval utopia where, in the words of
the Encyclopedia Britannica, “life was a round of luxurious
idleness…” The thirteenth-century English poem
The Land
of Cockaigne
is a satire on monastic life, and it is in that
tradition that our reeling baritone introduces himself as an
Abbot. The goliards, those wandering students and clerks
who were the authors of most of the
Carmina burana
were fond of satiric imitation of ecclesiastic orders and
ceremonies, and the collection includes several “anti-
masses” for drinkers, gamblers, etc.
After a pause for breath, we enter the
Cours d’amours
and go to the delicate sound of flutes and soprano voices
(including those of a boys’ chorus). In
Dies, nox et omnia
the baritone bemoans his lovelorn state with enormous
pathos and in falsetto flourishes that send him clear to high
B. Orff directs him to be “tender but always exaggerated.”
Stetit puella
, the soprano sets before us a picture of a girl
in a red dress and with irresistible erotic radiance.
Si puer
cum puellula
is set for six chattering, leering men.
veni, venias
is a love song full of bird noises. For
In trutina
the sweet song of the girl who, in the end, finds it after all
not so very difficult to choose between “lascivus amor” and
“pudicitia,” Orff holds the soprano to her most seductive low
register, projected against a softly pulsating accompaniment.
It is the loveliest lyric inspiration in the
The baritone and chorus heat things up still more in the
restless and vigorous
Tempus est iocundum
, and then, in a
beautifully placed musical and dramatic stroke, the girl fulfills
the promise of
In trutina
con abbandono
and to the very highest reaches of the soprano’s voice.
The brief but sonorous address to
Blanziflor et Helena
makes a bridge to the reprise of the chorus. Few of us
would guess that the ringing final words exhort, “Mecum
omnes plangite!”—“Come, all, and weep with me!”
solo soprano, tenor and baritone and mixed choir, with orchestra
comprising 3 flutes (2 doubling piccolo), 3 oboes
(1 doubling English horn), 3 clarinets (1 each doubling bass
clarinet and E-flat clarinet), 2 bassoons, contrabassoon,
4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, cymbals,
antique cymbals, suspended cymbal, snare drum, bass drum,
castanets, chimes, sleigh bell, ratchet, tambourine, tam-tam,
triangle, glockenspiel, 2 pianos, celesta and strings
Program note excerpted from the late
Michael Steinberg
Choral Masterworks: A Listener’s Guide
(Oxford, 2005),
used with permission.
Gathered in chords
we come to this house—
our dwelling, our space,
one body, one voice—
a symphony of our own making.
Honored through song
we sing for all—
birds, rivers and green,
our humanity—
a symphony of the earth’s making.
The music changes us—
comforts, hopes and dreams with us.
Now we start the great round—
our humble thanks in sound.
Chimes and cymbals fill the air—
reverberating everywhere.
The music in our hearts
will gently set us free.
Now we start the great round—
our humble thanks in sound.
Copyright 2014 Steve Heitzeg
Now We Start the Great Round
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