Belle Antique 1985 / Sommor 2016
Ancient manuscript brought to life – and buried alive – in a tangle of international talent that stood the test of time.
Carl Orff may have turned “Carmina Burana” into cantata but his symphonic reading of the Gothic poems ate away at their entertaining nature, so when Kay Hoffman went from Germany to Italy in the mid-’70s with this collection in her hand and met Welsh soprano Jacqueline Darby there, the two young ladies, both with a bit of a rock experience, decided to return old verses to their roots. Sadly, the brilliant result of this collaboration didn’t see release at the time, and it wasn’t until 1985 that real aficionados dusted off the tapes and made the album available, albeit not in the glory it receives now.
There’s a mere shadow of Hoffman’s minimalism as a composer in these pieces, where her clavinet marries medieval textures to essentially modern pop tropes so, while Darby is delicately impressive, rather than imposing, on fragile a cappella songs like “Ich Will Truren” – which splinters, kaleidoscopically, in a ghostly polyphony. With the punchy beat of “Iste Mundus” setting a folk-rock agenda from the very beginning, its moldy miasma may seep through the cracks until the final “Amen” rams a mortality theme home, yet if “Tot” is a dry march towards one’s earthly end, and the title track crawls over a meditative chant, the caress of cymbals and vigorous woodwind infuse “Mai Tanz” with jazzy informality.
The original texts’ inherent lightheartedness also rears its fuzzy head once the quiet classical grandiosity of “Ouverture Zum Fest” has broken into rock riffs, although it takes “Langueo” to push electric guitars to the fore and unfold typical Apennine theatricality. Fortunately, such an effusive approach is very much reined in, leaving “Foret Silva” a testament to an attempt at restoring historic and cultural justice: that’s a genuine soundtrack to “Carmina Burana”!