It is often said that Orff destroyed all of his works prior to Carmina Burana but from these marvellous Arts reissues, this certainly does not seem to be the case. This free adaptation of Monteverdi's masterpiece was first published in 1925 using the original orchestration and circumstances permitting old instruments as well.
Contrary to Orff's expectations, this bold experiment failed as neither the audience nor the members of the orchestra were prepared for such a novel idea. The composer made two revisions, one in 1930, with moderate success, and the final one in 1940 which was first performed that same year in Dresden under Karl Böhm. It is this last version which we now have on this CD.
Recorded under Orff's own supervision in 1972, this last setting is able to communicate Monteverdi's style with a grandeur and intensity that is almost unsurpassable. Due to the then prevailing musical tastes, Orff had 'per forza' to make changes in both the dramatic and musical aspects of the original, but the compactness of the score and a new instrumental garb translate this 1607 'Favola in Musica's' language into a style that is more acceptable to modern listeners. Drastically cut and in three Acts, one can safely say that 'L'Orfeo' is almost transformed into a new work.
This disc has a certain historic value due to the composer's short spoken comment, and of Eichorn's close association with Orff when both were working in Munich. The singing and playing are of the highest standards and from the consistently relaxed atmosphere that permeates this performance, there is no doubt that the composer's satisfaction was complete.
Superb remastering completes an issue that is a must not only for all Orff admirers but also for those who like to investigate the rare byways of musical history.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech