Clemencic Consort & René Clémencic
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Although nowadays the title "Carmina burana" (Songs of Beuren) is most usually taken that of Carl Orff's scenic oratorio (1936), in fact the title was given by Johann Andreas Schmeller to the original twelfth-century collection of Latin and early German songs when he completed his addition of this source in 1847. Orff, for his oratorio, made use of the lyrics from this very collection.
Discovered at the Benedictine monastery in southern Germany, the collection contains not only secular poems and songs but also festive plays in Latin. Its thousand or so lyrics encompass morality, satire, sex, and drunking; they reflect the flesh-and-blood life of the authors, who were perhaps Goliards (wandering clerics and scholars).
Some of the items have an early form of notation without staves called "neumes"--this was quite an archaic style of writing music even for the time the collection was copied. CDs currently avaliable are indebted largely to modern scholars' attempts to decode the notation with the help of roughly contemporary copies of some of the works found in clearer notation in sources from Limoges and Notre Same.
Rene Clemencic's recording of this collection stands out not least because of his scholarly rigor--in fact, he was responsible for the first comprehensive musical edition of the collection published in 1979. The diversity in style that his performances emply (from the earthly power of "Bache, bene venies," the haunting chanting of "Homo, quo vigeas vide," and the gentle and strangly nostalgic lyricism of "Clauso chronos") not only matches the range of the subjects but seems to restore something of the authentic sonic landscape of these evocative songs from the mistly past.
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