C. Orff / Monteverdi · H. Genzmer · M. Reger · C. Orff / M. Regner · W. Buchenberg
Carl Orff Chor · Robert Blank, conductor
The Carl Orff-Choir of Marktoberdorf dedicates itself primarily to singing demanding a cappella literature, both sacred and secular. The ensemble was founded in 1994 by its current artistic director, Robert Blank. Highlights of its activities until now have included winning Second Prize at the 1998 International Chamber Choir Competition in Riva del Garda, working with the Philharmonic Choir Munich and the Munich Philharmonic under such conductors
as Horst Stein, Mariss Jansons and James Levine, and the German premiere
of Nils Lindberg’s Requiem at the 2004 Musica Sacra Festival. This CD focuses on a cappella works by Orff, supplemented by compositions related either stylistically or historically to him.
The Idea Behind the Program
The Carl Orff Choir, its mentor Prof. Hermann Regner and I had already conceived of producing
a CD centered on Carl Orff’s a cappella choral works. Because I wanted all of the works on the CD to have the same theme, I started looking
for a subject that was both typical for Orff’s oeuvre and that enabled including other choral works.
I quickly found that the aspects of time and transitoriness – e.g. as in his Carmina Burana, his end-of-time work De fine temporum comoedia
and in the Sunt lacrimae rerum for a cappella men’s choir – play a fundamental role.
The final title of this CD, “TEMPORA – alles hat seine Zeit” (TEMPORA – for everything there is a time) resulted both from Orff’s humanistic background and love of Latin as well as from the old-testament Bible quote “omnia tempus habent” – everything has its time, which is the quintessence of the Sunt lacrimae rerum and the entire program.
In addition to the impermanence of time, this program is also dedicated to the times of day and the important Christian seasons such as Easter, Pentecost, Advent and Christmas.
As I looked for other suitable composers, the first I found had close ties to Munich. Because this resulted in biographical ties among the various
composers – an aspect that was at first inadvertent
– I was glad to leave it at that.
Except for Max Reger, whose compositional style is still firmly embedded in the late 19th century,
all other composers are clearly of the 20th or 21st century; composers who strive to recognize traditional roots and combine these with the tonal, harmonic and rhythmic possibilities of their time.
On the Works
Translation: Elizabeth Gahbler
Carl Orff was born in Munich on July 10, 1895 to a traditional Bavarian family whose family
tree included many officers and intellectuals.
Chamber music was regularly played in the Orff home; it was above all Carl’s mother Paula, a trained concert pianist, who looked after her son’s musical education. The boy thus began taking
piano and cello lessons from an early age and frequently went to the theater.
After attending – but not graduating from – two traditional secondary schools in Munich, Orff transferred to the Academy of Music to study composition. Even before having taken the entrance examination, he had written a number of songs for voice and piano as well as his first choral work: Zarathustra. Because he found his Academy courses too conservative, however, Orff did a great deal of study on his own, consuming
the works of Schoenberg and Debussy, whose unique tonal language especially fascinated him.
After first following in the footsteps of the musical avant-garde, Orff turned away from this path shortly before the beginning of World War I and began focusing his attention on music for the theater. He obtained a first post as kapellmeister at the Munich Chamber Theater through the help of his piano teacher Hermann Zilcher, moving on to the Mannheim National Theater and the Darmstadt
Court Theater after the end of the war. He returned to Munich in 1919, where he worked as a freelance composer in Munich and began developing his own personal compositional style. Occupying himself with the music of the 16th and 17th centuries – especially that of Monteverdi – proved to be formative for him.
In the course of the rhythm and dance movement
that began after the war, Carl Orff co-founded
a school for gymnastics and dance in Munich together with Dorothee Günther, a gymnastics teacher, graphic designer and writer: the Günther School. This was the context in which he developed
his concept of an elementary music that would synthesize music, speech and movement with the goal of “regenerating” music starting with movement and dance.
Relying primarily on non-European instruments,
he worked together with Kurt Maendler, a harpsichord builder, to develop his repertoire of so-called Orff Instruments, which came to play a significant role in his stage pieces as well as his music for schools.
At first known primarily as a music educator
and specialist for early music, Orff finally achieved his breakthrough as a composer in 1937 with Carmina Burana, whose premiere took place in Frankfurt am Main. This work revealed all dimensions of the composer’s unmistakable style, both musically and dramatically. Despite the skepticism of those in power at the time, Orff continued to write more stage works, including the fairy tale Der Mond, after a story by the Brothers
Grimm, Die Kluge and Catulli Carmina, also known as Ludi scaenici (scenic play).
After 1945, Orff’s works were able to spread unhindered throughout Germany and the rest of the world. In 1950, he began teaching a master class in composition at the Academy of Music in Munich, which he led until 1960. Thanks to a great deal of cooperation with the Bavarian Radio Corporation,
his works for the school also began attracting
enormous interest on an internationally scale.
Further stage works written after 1947 include Die Bernauerin, Trionfo di Aphrodite and thus, the entire Trionfi, Astutuli, the sixth and last version of the Midsummer Night’s Dream, and an Easter and Christmas Play. Adapted to the circumstances of the Greek tragedy, Orff changed his musical style profoundly when he composed his works Antigone,
Oedipus the Tyrant and Prometheus. The stage work De fine temporum comoedia, also his last great work, can be considered as the culmination
of his entire life’s work.
Orff died on March 29, 1982 in Munich and was buried at the famous monastery church in Andechs, south of Munich.
Robert Blank, based on the article by Dr. Thomas Rösch in MGG, vol. 12
, born on February 9, 1909 in Blumenthal
(near Bremen, Germany), began taking piano lessons as a school student and first played organ for church services. As a boy, he experienced
a number of concertante performances of works by Richard Strauss and Paul Hindemith, among others, which left a lasting impression on him. After graduating from secondary school in Marburg, he took his first music theory classes from the music director at the university there but soon decided to study composition with Paul Hindemith in Berlin.
From 1934 to 1937 he was a piano accompanist
at the Breslau Opera, where he later headed rehearsals; from 1937 to 1942 he taught theory and chamber music at the Berlin-Neukölln music
school. After World War II, he was appointed professor of composition and assistant director at the Academy of Music in Freiburg. In 1957 Genz-mer was asked to join the Academy of Music in Munich, where he lived and composed until retirement.
His students included Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos and Bertold Hummel.
Hindemith’s influence on Genzmer is evident in the latter’s formal clarity and use of extended tonality. He developed his own personal style as well, as shown by the playful effortlessness of his melodies and his highly pronounced feeling for tone color as an independent stylistic device. The vital rhythms of Carl Orff, who likewise taught at
the Academy of Music in Munich, also impressed Genzmer, and this influence also shows up in some of his compositions. At the center of the composer’s oeuvre, however, is the musical person
in various artistic-sociological environments, such as music for the home, chamber music, concert hall, school or church. His secular choral
music ranges from simple songs to complex a cappella choral works and cantatas; his sacred works from motets to cantatas to the German Mass. In addition to his choral works, Genzmer wrote many concertos, chamber music works and songs for solo voice.
Robert Blank, based on MGG
Um Mitternacht is a setting of the Eduard Mörike poem for a cappella mixed choir.
Harald Genzmer understands well how to use simple but effective means to relay the mood of the text. After a unison descending melodic line (“Gelassen stieg die Nacht ans Land” [Calmly, the night descended upon the land]), he gradually
expands the piece’s overall tonal range – especially
in the outer voices – and then gives the bass rhythmic and melodic independence without,
however, detracting from the calm, introverted
mood found at the beginning of the poem.
The next section (“Und kecker rauschen die Quellen hervor” [And the springs bubble up even more merrily]) – a reminiscence of the previous day – retains the same basic tempo but now acquires
a new time signature, 12/8, giving the whole a more spirited energy that also manifests itself in the fact that the individual voices alternate in adding
their own say, only coming together again before
the beginning of the third verse, which once again refers to the night. Verses 3 and 4 are musically
identical to the first two verses.
Tristissima Nox is part of the “South American Songs For A Cappella Choir” cycle.
Once again, the special atmosphere of the text seems to have fascinated Genzmer.
He describes in the most plastic of terms the danger and restlessness of a South American night that only very slowly finds the calm it has earned.
Genzmer uses musical language of the utmost diversity and contrast, including abrupt tempo changes, passages that are sometimes sound-oriented, sometimes sprechgesang and sometimes
unison parts or phrases that breathe due to their harmonic, frequently bitonal structure, thus making up the constantly changing mood of the individual lines of the verse.
Only at the end of the poem does the music find calm and stability. The symbol for this is the organ point in the tenor, around which the harmonic
events in the remaining voices revolve.
Translation: Elizabeth Gahbler
Hermann Regner was born in 1928 in Marktoberdorf.
He studied conducting, composition, musicology and anthropology in Augsburg and Munich. He taught at the Academy of Music in Trossingen from 1957 until 1963. From 1964 until his retirement in 1993, Regner was a professor for music education at the Orff Institute of the Salzburg
Mozarteum. He worked together with Carl Orff and headed the Carl Orff Institute in Salzburg for many years.
His oeuvre includes compositions for chamber
ensembles and orchestra, wind band, choir, theater and film.
Carl Orff, Am Weynachtabend
Carl Orff printed this song, which he had found in the Speyer Songbook from 1617, in his Music for Children (vol. 5, p. 20), set for voice and Orff instruments. Hermann Regner’s edition relies on the transparency of Orff’s writing as the basis for his own version for mixed choir.
Carl Orff, Fröhlicher Ostersang
In Music for Children (vol. 4, p. 69), Carl Orff writes a unison melody over an organ point. The unison is broken by parallel triads only at the cry “hilariter” (Lat. hilaritas = hilarity, glee, joy) and the “Alleluja”. Hermann Regner has expanded the movement by adding material at the beginning
and in the middle.
Carl Orff/Hermann Regner,
Das Wessobrunner Gebet
The Wessobrunn Prayer was written circa 800 AD in the Bavarian monastery of Wessobrunn. Its caption “De Poeta” implies that the prayer is the work of one individual poet. It is the oldest known Christian religious text in the German language. In volume 4, page 68 of his Music for Children, Carl Orff published the first part of the poem in his own setting. Hermann Regner completed the text using original sources and continued the musical setting. He also arranged the unison setting published
by Orff for mixed choir.
This I was told among men as most wondrous,
that the earth was not, nor the heavens above, neither tree nor mountain was,
that the sun did not shine, nor the moon put forth light,
nor the mighty sea.
When there was neither end nor verge,
the one almighty God was already there,
man mildest and many with him,
wonderful spirits and the holy God.
Almighty God, who hast created heaven and earth,
and who hast given man so much good,
lend me with your grace the right faith
and good will, wisdom, insight and strength
to resist the devil and avoid evil
and to accomplish your will.
Hermann Regner, Alles zu seiner Zeit
Six miniatures for mixed choir with poems by Catarina Carsten
The subjects and musicality of the poems inspired
the composer to set them for choir. The titles of the miniatures are: Voices – Children of the world – The tides – Refuge – Dream angel – Have patience. The music tries to make the text ring as well as emotionally elucidate words and sentences. Hermann Regner wrote this composition
for the Carl Orff Choir Marktoberdorf.