ORFF: Carmina Burana (Eva Jenisova/ Gunter Appenheimer/ Ivan Kusnjer/ Pavol Prochazka/ Slovak Philharmonic Chorus/ Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/ Stephen Gunzenhauser/ Vladimir Dolezal) (Naxos: 8.550196)
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Carl Orff (1895 - 1982)
Carl Orff was born in Munich in 1895, where he studied at the Academy ofMusic, later occupying positions as director of music at the Munich Kammerspiele,the Mannheim National theater and the Landestheater at Darmstadt. In 1919 hereturned to Munich and five years later established with Dorothee Guenther theGuentherschule for gymnastics, music and dance. The result was his influentialSchulwerk, which has had a marked influence on the teaching of music, with itsuse of tuned percussion instruments, ostinato rhythms and creative aims,associated with physical movement.
It was Orff's work as conductor of the Munich Bach Society from 1930 to 1933that led to the composition of his most influential choral work, Carmina Burana,a setting of secular medieval Latin, French and Middle High German poems from amanuscript preserved in the Bavarian abbey of Benediktbeuren. This stage cantatamarked a new beginning for Orff as a composer, and his later work explored stillfurther this very characteristic form of Gesamtkunstwerk, drawing on a varietyof sources, from ancient Greece to medieval Europe.
The power that lies behind the music of Carmina Burana is primitive, evenbarbarous. Insistent rhythms, ostinato repetitions and a complete abnegation ofcontemporary chromatic or atonal musical idioms, make the work compelling,unforgettable and physically attractive in its simple energy and strength.
Eva Jenisova joined the Slovak National Opera in the Slovak capitalBratislava in 1988. As a lyric soprano her roles include Zerlina in Mozart's DonGiovanni and Micaela in Bizet's Carmen.
The tenor Vladimir Dolezal was trained at the Prague Conservatory and hasbeen a member of the Prague Madrigalists since 1972. He joined the PragueNational Theatre as a soloist in 1988.
Ivan Kusnjer studied at the Prague College of Music and Drama and joined thePrague National Theatre as a soloist in 1982. His roles there have included Figaro,Rigoletto and the Count of Luna.
Czechoslovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava)
The Czechoslovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava), the oldest symphonicensemble in Slovakia, was founded in 1929 at the instance of Milos Ruppeldt andOskar Nedbal, prominent personalities in the sphere of music. Ondrej Lenard wasappointed its conductor in 1970 and in 1977 its conductor-in-chief. Theorchestra has given successful concerts both at home and abroad, in West andEast Germany, Russia, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Spain, Italy, and GreatBritain.
The American conductor Stephen Gunzenhauser was educated in New York,continuing his studies at Oberlin, at the Salzburg Mozarteum, at the New EnglandConservatory and at Cologne State Conservatory. His period at the last of thesewas the result of a Fulbright Scholarship, followed by an award from the WestGerman Government and a first prize in the conducting competition held in theSpanish town of Santiago.
During the last two decades, Gunzenhauser has enjoyed a varied anddistinguished career, winning popularity in particular for his work with theDelaware Symphony, an orchestra which he has recently conducted on aneight-concert tour of Portugal. His other engagements have included appearanceswith orchestras in Europe and America, from the RIAS Orchestra of Berlin, theHessischer Rundfunk Orchestra of Frankfurt and Dublin Radio Orchestra to theCharlotte Orchestra of North Carolina, and orchestras in Victoria, B.C., Spokaneand Knoxville.
For the Marco Polo label Stephen Gunzenhauser has recorded works by Bloch,Liadov, Gli?¿re and Rubinstein, and for NAXOS Tchaikovsky's Symphony No.5,Beethoven Overtures, the Borodin Symphonies and the Saint-Sa?½ns OrganSymphony.
At present he is working on a project to record all the symphonies andsymphonic poems of Dvořak forNAXOS.