Orff / Carmina Burana / Jochum – Amazing on DG Vinyl

More of the Music of Carl Orff (1895-1982)

More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • A STUNNING copy of this strikingly original work with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from the first note to the last – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that even our most well-cared-for vintage classical titles have trouble playing at
  • This spectacular recording is big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic – HERE is the analog sound we love
  • We’ve auditioned quite a number of recordings of the work, and as far as we are concerned, on the right pressing this is the best sounding version that exists on vinyl – the orchestral power on display is positively PHENOMENAL
  • “With the direction of Eugen Jochum and the bonus of the incomparable rich, powerful voice of baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, this 1968 performance is a classic, and very probably the best, recording of the opera.”

This vintage Deutsche Grammophon pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What The Best Sides Of Orff’s Modern Masterpiece Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1968
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What to Listen For

Number one: Too many instruments and voices jammed into too little space in the upper midrange. When the tonality is shifted-up, even slightly, or there is too much compression, there will be too many elements vying for space in the upper part of the midrange, causing congestion and a loss of clarity.

With the more solid sounding copies, the lower mids are full and rich. Above them, the next “level up” so to speak, there’s plenty of space in which to fit all the instruments and voices comfortably, without piling them on top of one another as so often happens on the records we play. On the better copies the upper midrange space does not get overloaded and overwhelmed with musical information.

Number Two: edgy vocals, which is related to Number One above. Many copies will reveal some edge on the vocals, but the best copies keep the edge well under control or do away with entirely, without sounding compressed, dark, dull or smeary.

(As an aside, those last four adjectives you see above would describe more than 95 percent of the Heavy Vinyl pressings we have had the misfortune to audition over the last twenty years or so. How so-called audiophiles can tolerate the blatantly obvious shortcomings found on these modern records is beyond us? We cannot understand it, and we likely never will.)

The highest quality equipment will play the loudest and most difficult-to-reproduce passages of this amazing recording with virtually no edge, grit or grain, even at very loud levels.

What We’re Listening For On Carmina Burana

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

A Big Group of Musicians Needs This Kind of Space

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

And most of the time those very special pressings are just plain more involving. When you hear a copy that does all that — a copy like this one — it’s an entirely different listening experience.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

A Must Own Classical Record

This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Classical Music Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.


Side One

Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi

  • O Fortuna
  • Fortune Plango Vulnera

I Primo Vere

  1. Veris Leta Facies
  2. Omnia Sol Temperat
  3. Ecce Gratum

Uf Dem Anger

  1. Tanz
  2. Floret Silva Nobilis
  3. Chramer, Gip Die Varwe Mir
  4. Reie
  5. Swaz Hie Gat Umbe
  6. Chume, Chum Geselle Min
  7. Swaz Hie Gat Umbe
  8. Were Diu Werlt Alle Min

Side Two

In Taberna

  • Estuans Interius
  • Olim Lacus Colueram
  • Ego Sum Abbas
  • In Taberna Quando Sumus

Cour D’amours

  1. Amor Volat Undique
  2. Dies, Nox Et Omnia
  3. Stetit Puella
  4. Circa Mea Pectora
  5. Si Puer Cum Puellula
  6. Veni, Veni, Venias
  7. In Trutina Mentis Dubia
  8. Tempus Est Iocundum
  9. Dulcissime

Blanziflor Et Helena

  1. Ave Formosissima

Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi

  1. O Fortuna

Amazon Review

If you need to get motivated to get up and move, raise your spirits, or just get your foot to tapping, this is the recording for you. Once you start to listen to this opera you can understand why an excerpt from “Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi” is played at some sporting events to get the team and crowd into the game.

With the direction of Eugen Jochum and the bonus of the incomparable rich, powerful voice of baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, this 1968 performance is a classic, and very probably the best, recording of the opera. The reproduction quality from the original Deutsche Grammophon recording is clear and clean.

Highly recommended.

– “Tabletop of Chaos,” Amazon Reviewer

Is ‘Carmina Burana’ the ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ of the classical world?

“Carmina Burana” is like rock music of the early 20th century, explains Betsy Cook Weber, director of the Houston Symphony Chorus.

With haunting medieval chants set to a spine-tingling composition, Carl Orff’s evocative work is one of the most, if not the most, instantly recognizable pieces in all of music history,…

Orff’s musical spectacle, which premiered in Frankfurt in 1937, is based on 24 of the 254 secular poems and dramatic texts from the “Codex Buranus,” a medieval manuscript that, according to legend, is the work of goliards – wandering scholars and clerics in 12th- and 13th-century Europe known for their unruly behavior. The bound, handwritten pages of the anthology were discovered in a German monastery in the early 1800s, and the poems, although predominantly written in Latin, include a few insertions of Middle High German and traces of Old French.

“The words paint this picture that we’re all just stuck on this big wheel of life,” Weber said, “and life’s good fortunes or bad fortunes zap us almost without rhyme or reason.”
Reminiscent of this continuously rotating wheel of fortune is a repeated movement titled “Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi,” which bookends the work. Latin for “Fortune, Empress of the World,” the song, which is frequently heard in films and on television, begins with the famed “O Fortuna,” a grim objection to the unfairness of inexorable fate and life’s misfortunes.

The remaining three sections relate to the pleasures of spring, drinking, gluttony, gambling, lust and love, and the often-satirical text evokes uninhibited, bawdy and irreverent imagery of such controversial and fickle subject matter.

“You can read the words on a very sanitized level, but if you’re perceptive, you’ll see that what those medieval poets were writing was very R- to X-rated, and Orff certainly highlights that in his music,” Weber said. “I’m sure it was extremely scandalous. It’s scandalous today.”

Much of the lyric poetry is highly sensual. For instance, toward the end of the work, the soprano sings a short aria, in which she reaches the highest level of her vocal range. It is a climactic moment, or in this case, a musical depiction of a female orgasm.

At other times, the content of “Carmina Burana,” meaning “Songs of Beuren,” seems completely unrelated, such as when the tenor depicts a dying swan being roasted on a spit. Still, Weber explains, this particular aria is one that people wait with bated breath to hear.

No matter how shocking the colorful subject matter may seem, Orff certainly created a perennial favorite in his rhythmic scenic cantata, one that pleases audiences around the world.

“People love to sing this. People love to hear this,” Weber said. “It’s just indescribable why it’s so popular, but it most certainly is…”

Our System

Having critically auditioned a pile of Carmina Burana pressings, it’s abundantly clear to us that our stereo system just plain loves this record. Let’s talk about why we think that might be.

Our system is fast, accurate and uncolored. We like to think of our speakers as the audiophile equivalent of studio monitors, showing us to the best of their ability exactly what is on the record, no more and no less.

When we play a modern record, it should sound modern. When we play a Tubey Magical recording such as this, we want to hear all the Tubey Magic, but we don’t want to hear more Tubey Magic than what is actually on the record. We don’t want to do what some audiophiles like to do, which is to make all their records sound the way they like all their records to sound.

They do that by having their system add in all their favorite colorations. We call that “My-Fi”, not “Hi-Fi”, and we’re having none of it.

If our system were more colored, or slower, or tubier, this record would not sound as good as it does. It’s already got plenty of richness, warmth, sweetness and Tubey Magic.

To take an obvious example, playing the average dry and grainy Joe Walsh record on our system is a fairly unpleasant experience. Some added warmth and richness, with maybe some upper-midrange suckout thrown in for good measure, would make the experience of playing copy after copy much more enjoyable. But then how would we know which Joe Walsh pressings aren’t too dry and grainy for our customers to enjoy listening to?

We discussed some of these issues in another commentary:

Our Approach

We’ve put literally thousands of hours into our system and room in order to extract the maximum amount of information, musical and otherwise, from the records we play, or as close to the maximum as we can manage. Ours is as big and open as any system in an 18 by 20 by 8 room I’ve ever heard.

It’s also as free from colorations of any kind as we can possibly make it. We want to hear the record in its naked form; not the way we want it to sound, but the way it actually does sound. That way, when you get it home and play it yourself, it should sound very much like we described it.

If too much of the sound we hear is what our stereo is doing, not what the record is doing, how can we know what it will sound like on your system? We try to be as truthful and as critical as we can when describing the records we sell. Too much coloration in the system makes those tasks much more difficult, if not a practical impossibility.

We are convinced that the more time and energy you’ve put into your stereo over the years, decades even, the more likely it is that you will hear this wonderful record sound the way we heard it. And that will make it one helluva Demo Disc in your home too.

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