Carl Orff

Catulli Carmina, scenic cantata for soloists, chorus & orchestra

    Description by Roy Brewer

    Catulli Carmina is the second of a three large-scale works for voices and instruments written between 1936 and 1953, the first being Carmina Burana and followed by Trionfo di Afrodite. It was Orff's intention that all three would be performed consecutively and would be presented with a certain amount of staged action. (Carmina Burana had considerable success and is now the one most likely to be heard.)

    Written for choir, soloists, percussion group, and four pianos, it is made of settings of 11 poems by Catullus, a Roman poet of the first century B.C. The poems, written in Latin, are short, some only a few lines long, and addressed to a married woman called Clodia, whom the poet calls Lesbia. Audiences might well find the poems' literal meanings as impenetrable as those of Carmina Burana, even with a suitable translation, but each displays considerable invention and panache. Though the cycle of poems are not narrative in character, Orff links them in a loose sequence to tell a story of love and loss, much as Schumann did for his settings of Heine's poems in the song cycle Dichterliebe. There, however, the resemblance ends.

    Orff is not in the least concerned with classical authenticity. His pulsing rhythms are uncompromisingly modern -- in places even jazzy -- and far from what would be expected by a Latin scholar for declaiming poetry. Orff was particularly interested in the dramatic possibilities of percussion instruments, and throughout Catulli he uses them, with the pianos, to great effect. The singers are occasionally called upon to use what is called Sprechstimme, a kind of vocal enunciation somewhere between speech and song.

    In strictly musical terms Catulli may now sound less original and challenging than it did when first performed, and though the trilogy as a whole calls out for the choreography it no longer gets, it has something in common with the spirited iconoclasm of certain popular musicals of the 1960s.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Eis Aiona!
    2. 1. Odi et Amo
    3. 2. Vivamus mea Lesbia
    4. 3. Ille mi par esse
    5. 4. Caeli, Lesbia nostra
    6. 5. Nulli se dicit mulier mea nubere malle
    7. 6. Jucundum mea vita
    8. 7. O mea Lesbia! Desine de quoquam
    9. 8. Odi et amo
    10. 9. Amabo mea dulcis Ipsitilla
    11. 10. Ameana puella defututa
    12. 11. Miser Catulle
    13. 12. Catulle! Lesbia! Nulla potest mulier
    14. Eis aiona!

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2017
    Berlin Classics
    0300927 BC
    2015
    Brilliant Classics
    95116BR
    2012
    Acanta
    233584
    2010
    Berlin Classics
    0300066
    2006
    Arts Music
    43050
    2006
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    EMI Classics
    55517
    2004
    Arts Music
    43002
    2003
    Deutsche Grammophon
    474131
    1997
    Intuition
    3169
    1996
    Deutsche Grammophon
    449 097-2GGA
    1995
    Wergo
    6275
    1994
    Supraphon
    1103212
    1993
    Berlin Classics
    0020472
    Calig
    50937
    Supraphon
    110321
    Calig
    50937/38
    Newport Classic
    60118