Prospective buyers of this 2011 release of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana should note the small print on the cover that indicates that this is the arrangement for chamber choir, two pianos, and percussion, not the full orchestral version. There is a considerable difference in the impact, intensity, and instrumental coloration of the music, so anyone who wants a powerful recording of "O Fortuna," or who relishes the robust sonorities of the 1934-1936 original should give this Hänssler Classic release a pass, and seek out one of many available recordings on major labels of the popular score. This pared-down version was arranged in 1956 by Wilhelm Killmayer, and Orff endorsed it because school choral groups and music societies without an orchestra could more readily perform it. This rendition by the SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart, under the direction of Rupert Huber, is well-sung and skillfully played, and Orff's famous ostinati and crisp rhythms are expertly executed by the ensemble. Prominent is the piano duo GrauSchumacher, which carries the piece with solid pacing, and the vocals of soprano Lenneke Ruiten, tenor Christoph Genz, and baritone Stephan Genz give the performance a distinctively personal quality in this rather close-up setting. This CD may interest choral directors and fans of choral performance, and students of Orff's work should certainly give it a hearing. But the majority of listeners will regard this as an item of specialized interest.
Orff: Carmina Burana Review
by Blair Sanderson