Most classical listeners are familiar with the full orchestral version of Carl Orff's profane cantata, Carmina Burana, but a scarcer item in the catalog is the version arranged by the composer in 1956 for two pianos and percussion, twenty years after he wrote the original score. His purpose was to make the music more widely available to schools and choral groups without orchestras. The 1990 recording by the Ensemble à Percussion de Geneva, the Chœur Novantiqua de Sion and the Schola des Petits Chanteurs de Sion , under the direction of Bernard Heritier, demonstrates how practical this arrangement is, for the most important aspects of the score -- the vocal and choral parts and the large assignment of the accompaniment to the percussion -- are essentially unchanged, while the orchestral material is easily handled by the two pianists, Mayumi Kameda and Jean-Jacques Balet. The singing is of high quality, so interest is maintained in the texts and the characterizations of some of the numbers, and the fact that an orchestra is missing seems almost beside the point. Naturally, anyone who wants a recording of Carmina Burana for the overwhelming force of the famous opening chorus, "O Fortuna," will be disappointed by this leaner version. But this performance has integrity, and it will interest students of Orff's post-war projects and fans of choral music in general, who are accustomed to performances with piano accompaniment.
Carl Orff: Carmina Burana (Version pour Deux Pianos et Percussion) Review
by Blair Sanderson