A Carmina for the Ages – Peter Greer

“Conducting without a score, his
disciplined control over Orff’s vast forces, including batteries of
percussion and two pianos, resulted in a performance that lacked
nothing – rhythmic assurance (surely inevitable from a Spaniard),
perfect timing, a wide range of choral and orchestral tone colour,
gem-like brilliance, subtlety and the essential electrifying hypnotic

This quote is not referring to the this
weekend’s PSO performance (although it is certainly applicable) but
rather to a 1965 London performance preparatory to the recording of
Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana with Fruhbeck de Burgos conducting the New
Philharmonia Chorus and Orchestra.

This recording was my
introduction to the work and is still available in the catalog as
Angel  CD#64328. One of the first stereo versions, many Carmina
aficionados (witness the Amazon.com reviewers) contend it is still the
best. At the time he made it, Frubeck de Burgos had matinee idol good
looks which may explain why he got the chance to record it and others
didn’t. In any case he made the most of the opportunity, as it ranks as
one of the two or three most important recordings of his distinguished

The interpretation he presented last weekend in
Pittsburgh has
grown deeper in the intervening forty years since his recording.  To be
sure the passion is still there, but now it is infused with moments of
autumnal joie de vivre in the shaping and phrasing of contrasting
slower passages. Stepping back occasionally from the driving force of
fortune to savor the meaning of it all, he imparted poignancy to the
familiar melodies and driving rhythms.

Mendelssohn Choir was in top form. Music Director Emeritus, Bob Page
enjoyed the performance enormously from the steps leading into family
circle until he had to take his leave for final bows. Bob’s charges are
acclaimed Carmina veterans having performed the work with the
Pittsburgh Ballet several years ago.   

should be heartened by the burgeoning relationship developing between
the Spanish maestro and our orchestra. Chemistry is elusive; like
physical attraction it cannot be willed.  But anyone who experienced
the performance on Friday felt the sparks fly and could see the
affection for Frubeck de Burgos in the faces of the Pittsburgh players
as they declined a bow in favor of the maestro during the standing
ovation that followed. 

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