Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana is one of the most popular pieces of the classical music repertoire. It is a scenic cantata composed in 1935 and 1936, based on 24 poems from the medieval collection Carmina Burana(1). Here the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra, the University Chorus and Alumni Chorus, and the Pacific Boychoir perform at the Mondavi Center at UC Davis. Recorded in June 2007.
With the starting times in the video:
- Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi (Fortune, Empress of the World)
- Choir: O Fortuna (O Fortune) – 01:17
- Choir: Fortune plango vulnera (I lament the wounds that Fortune deals) – 04:12
- I – Primo vere (In Spring)
- Small Choir: Veris leta facies (The joyous face of Spring) – 07:01
- Baritone: Omnia Sol temperat (All things are tempered by the Sun) – 11:36
- Choir: Ecce gratum – (Behold the welcome) 14:13
- Uf dem anger (In the Meadow)
- Instrumental: Tanz (Dance) – 17:00
- Choir: Floret silva (The forest flowers) – 18:57
- Choir: Chramer, gip die varwe mir (Monger, give me coloured paint) – 22:33
- a) Instrumental: Reie (Round Dance) – 25:56
- b) Choir: Swaz hie gat umbe (They who here go dancing around) – 28:14
- c) Small Choir: Chume, chum, geselle min (Come, come, my dear companion) – 28:52
- d) Choir: Swaz hie gat umbe (They who here go dancing around) (reprise) – 30:37
- Choir: Were diu werlt alle min (If the whole world were but mine) – 31:13
- II – In Taberna (In the Tavern)
- Baritone: Estuans interius (Seething inside) – 32:13
- Tenor, Choir (male): Olim lacus colueram (Once I swam in lakes) – 34:43
- Baritone, Choir (male): Ego sum abbas (I am the abbot of Cockaigne(2)) – 38:24
- Choir (male): In taberna quando sumus (When we are in the tavern) – 40:14
- Soprano, Boys’ Choir: Amor volat undique (Love flies everywhere) – 43:30
- Baritone: Dies, nox et omnia (Day, night and everything) – 47:20
- Soprano: Stetit puella (There stood a girl) – 49:50
- Baritone, Choir: Circa mea pectora (In my breast) – 52:32
- 3 Tenors, Baritone, 2 Basses: Si puer cum puellula (If a boy with a girl) – 54:40
- Double Choir: Veni, veni, venias (Come, come, pray come) – 55:34
- Soprano: In trutina (On the scales) – 56:39
- Soprano, Baritone, Boys’ choir: Tempus est iocundum (Time to jest) – 59:33
- Soprano: Dulcissime (Sweetest boy) – 1:02:05
- Choir: Ave formosissima (Hail to the most lovely) – 1:02:55
- Choir: O Fortuna (O Fortune) (reprise) – 1:04:47
Carmina Burana (Latin for “Songs from Beuern”; “Beuern” is short for Benediktbeuern) is the name given to a manuscript of 254 poems and dramatic texts mostly from the 11th or 12th century, although some are from the 13th century. The pieces are mostly bawdy, irreverent, and satirical. They were written principally in Medieval Latin; a few in Middle High German, and some with traces of Old French or Provençal. Some are macaronic, a mixture of Latin and German or French vernacular.
They were written by students and clergy when the Latin idiom was the lingua franca across Italy and western Europe for travelling scholars, universities and theologians. Most of the poems and songs appear to be the work of Goliards, clergy (mostly students) who satirized the Catholic Church. The collection preserves the works of a number of poets, including Peter of Blois, Walter of Châtillon, and an anonymous poet, referred to as the Archpoet.
The collection was found in 1803 in the Benedictine monastery of Benediktbeuern, Bavaria, and is now housed in the Bavarian State Library in Munich. Along with the Carmina Cantabrigiensia, the Carmina Burana is considered to be the most important collection of Goliard and vagabond songs.
The manuscripts reflect an international European movement, with songs originating from Occitania, France, England, Scotland, Aragon, Castile and the Holy Roman Empire.
Twenty-four poems in Carmina Burana were set to music by Carl Orff in 1936. Orff’s composition quickly became popular and a staple piece of the classical music repertoire. The opening and closing movement, “O Fortuna”, has been used in numerous films.
Cockaigne or Cockayne is a land of plenty in medieval myth, an imaginary place of extreme luxury and ease where physical comforts and pleasures are always immediately at hand and where the harshness of medieval peasant life does not exist. Specifically, in poems like The Land of Cockaigne, Cockaigne is a land of contraries, where all the restrictions of society are defied (abbots beaten by their monks), sexual liberty is open (nuns flipped over to show their bottoms), and food is plentiful (skies that rain cheeses). Writing about Cockaigne was a commonplace of Goliard verse. It represented both wish fulfillment and resentment at the strictures of asceticism and death.
Floris and Blancheflour
Floris and Blancheflour is the name of a popular romantic story that was told in the Middle Ages in many different vernacular languages and versions. It first appears in Europe around 1160 in “aristocratic” French. Roughly between the period 1200 and 1350 it was one of the most popular of all the romantic plots.
Helen of Troy
In Greek mythology, Helen of Troy, also known as Helen of Sparta, or simply Helen, was the daughter of Zeus and Leda, and was a sister of Castor, Pollux, and Clytemnestra. In Greek myths, she was considered the most beautiful woman in the world. By marriage she was Queen of Laconia, a province within Homeric Greece, the wife of King Menelaus. Her abduction by Paris, Prince of Troy, brought about the Trojan War. Elements of her putative biography come from classical authors such as Aristophanes, Cicero, Euripides and Homer (both The Iliad and The Odyssey).
In her youth she was abducted by Theseus. A competition between her suitors for her hand in marriage sees Menelaus emerge victorious. An oath sworn beforehand by all the suitors (known as the Oath of Tyndareus) requires them to provide military assistance in the case of her abduction; this oath culminates in the Trojan War. When she marries Menelaus she is still very young; whether her subsequent involvement with Paris is an abduction or a seduction is ambiguous.
The legends recounting Helen’s fate in Troy are contradictory. Homer depicts her as a wistful, even a sorrowful, figure, coming to regret her choice and wishing to be reunited with Menelaus. Other accounts have a treacherous Helen who simulates Bacchic rites and rejoices in the carnage. Ultimately, Paris was killed in action, and in Homer’s account Helen was reunited with Menelaus, though other versions of the legend recount her ascending to Olympus instead. A cult associated with her developed in Hellenistic Laconia, both at Sparta and elsewhere; at Therapne she shared a shrine with Menelaus. She was also worshiped in Attica, and on Rhodes.
Her beauty inspired artists of all time to represent her, frequently as the personification of ideal beauty. Christopher Marlowe’s lines from his tragedy Doctor Faustus (1604) are frequently cited: “Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships/And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?” Images of her start appearing in the 7th century BC. In classical Greece, her abduction by—or elopement with—Paris was a popular motif. In medieval illustrations, this event was frequently portrayed as a seduction, whereas in Renaissance painting it is usually depicted as a rape by Paris.