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Synopsys of Carmina Burana, movement by movement

Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi (Fortune, Empress of the World)


1. O Fortuna (o Fortune)/ 2. Fortune plango vulnera (I lament the Wounds that
fortune deals)
Choir
The entire work is framed by this section. This poem is clearly associated with an illuminated illustration
of the wheel of fortune on the first page of the Benediktbeuren manuscript. Talks about the fortune
and how if rules our lives.

I Primo Vere (First act)


3. Veris leta facies (The Joyous Face of Spring)
Small Choir/4. Omnia sol temperat (All the things are tempered)/5. Ecce gratum
(Behold the Welcome)
In this section first a small choir, then a baritone solo, and finally a rousing mixed chorus sing of the joys
of spring, with love as a strong subsidiary motif:
Curramus in amore (let us compete in love)
Ama me fideliter (Love me truly)
Illi mens est misera, (wretched is the man)
Qui nec vivit, (who never lives)
Nec lascivit (nor lusts)
Sub estatis dextera (under summers spell)

II. Uf dem Anger (On the Green)


In this section, Orff represents five German songs.
6. Dance
Orchestra
Lively peasant-like dance, making use of sophisticated rythms.
7. Floret silva (The noble forrest)
Chorus
Delightful comic song, first in Latin then in German. A womens chorus speaking as one girl asks where
her friend has gone, and a male chorus answers Hinc equitavit. (He rode away in his horse). The
syllables are sung Hinc, hinc, hinc, hinc, hinc, hinc, equitavit, equitavit, equitavit, equitavit, tavit tavit
tavit tavit tavit. The music, specially the timpani executes a riding figure.
8. Chramer, gip die varwe mir (S alesman! Give me colored paint)
Chorus
Bold folk-like tune. Orff chose it from one of the six ecclesiastical dramas. Salesman, give me colored
paint, to paint my checks so crimson red, that I may make these bold young men whether they will or
no, to love me.

9. Reie (reie)
Orchestra
Starts with a delicate Round dance, after which a mixed chorus leads into a seductive small chorus of
altos singing Chume, chum, geselle min, ih enbite harte din. (Come, come, dear heart of mine, I so
long have waited for thee). Then the boisterous mixed chorus is repeated.
10. Swaz hie gat umbe (They who Here go Dancing Round)
Chorus
A brilliant trumpet and trombone fanfare introduces the final song of this section. Clearly a single mans
thoughts, is sung by the full chorus in unison. Also, note how natural accent od lege is not respected by
the music.
Were diu werlt alle min, von deme mere unze an den Rin, des wolt ih mih darben If the whole world
were but mine, from the sea right to the Rhine, gladly Id pass if by.

II. In Taberna (In the Tavern)


Four songs sung by mens voices only. They talk about drinking (and about a roasting swan).
11. Estuans interius (Seething inside)
Baritone
Abbreviated version of the Archipoetas celebrated parody of a confession. In this the music leaves no
doubt as to the parodic intnt, but also has an urgency and vehemence which are in the poem, as though
the confession was pressing and urgent.
12. Olim lacus colueram (Once in lakes I made my home)
Tenor and Male Chorus
This is a swan, lamenting his fate in pathetic tones, for he is roasting on a spit: Girat, regirat garcifer
(on the spit I turn and turn) and he envisions himself on a platter staring at the teeth of his eager and
heartless devourers: dentes fredentes video (Gnashing teeth confront me). The music starts with a
bassoon playing a kind of slowly rotating figure. When the voice enters, the orchestra shifts to fluttertongued flutes and muted violas playing 64th notes in a low accompanying figure, for all the world like
the slightly awkward off-balance turning of a spit.1
13. Ego sum abbas (I am the abbot)
Baritone and Male Chorus
This song begins Ego sum abbas Cucaniensis (I am the abbot of Cucany). The abbot is a drinker and
gambler. His monologue is set by Orff for baritone solo as a liturgical plain chant, as though it were
being sung in a church.
14. In Taberna quando sumus (When we are in the tavern)
Male Chorus
The text is sung by the full chorus in unison octaves. The song moves rapidly, celebrating drink, the
carousers propose a toast to thirteen entities and:
Tam pro papa quam pro rege (they drink to the pope and king alike)
Bibunt omnes sine lege. (all drink without restraint)

II. Cour damours (The courts of love)


This section is longing, it is slyly sexual, sometimes ardent and at the end submissive, as the girl
surrenders herself the her desires.
15. Amor volat undique (Love flies everywhere)
Soprano and Childrens choir
This song argues that it is right for men and women to be joined together, to which a solo womans
voice sings con estrema civiterria fingiendo innocenza (extremely coquettish pretending innocence) of
how awful is for a woman not to have a man.
16. Dies, nox et Omnia (Day, night, and all the world)
Baritone
A mixture of Latin and French, a baritone laments with florid coloratura passages the coldness of his
beloved. A solo soprano counters in the third with a saucy, provocative, sexy, account of a girl in a red
tunic. So it goes back and forth with a succession of advances, rebuffs, laments, insinuations.
17. Stetit puella (There stood a young girl)
Soprano/18. Circa mea pectora (my brest)b aritone and Chorus/19. Si puer cum
puellula (If a boy and a girl)Male voices/19. Si puer cum puellula (If a boy and a girl)
Male voices/20. Veni, veni, venias (Come, come, pray, come)Double chorus
These movements keep elaboratin on love, longing, and virginity.
21. In trutina (In the Scales)
Soprano
A troubled girl sings of her aching doubts: In trutina mentis dubia, Fluctuant contraria lascivus amor et
pudicitia (In the scales of my wavering indecision, physical love and chastity are weighted). But she
gives up to her desires: Sed eligo quod video (But I choose what I see)
22. Tempus est locundum (Pleasant is the season)
Soprano, Baritone, Chorus, and childrens choir
This is a long choral dialog in which both boys and girls admit their desires: Tempus est iocundum
(pleasant is the season) After each exchange there is a refrain in which the men claim, but equanimity,
that they are perishing from unrequited love.
23. Dulcissime (sweetest boy)
Soprano
In this brief number we hear the girl with intensely and urgently sexual tones yield herself totally.
24. Ave formisisima (Hail to there)
Chorus
In this separate sub-section, the choral hymn to Helena and Blanziflor is heard. The words and music
combine in this movement to depict a vision of beauty and majesty. Its apparent confusion between the
Virgin Mary and the goddess Venus is suggestive of the monk-poet's confusion between his sacred and
secular roles. The choir remains in six-part harmony.
Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi
This is a joyful, defiant affirmation of mans ability to cope with lifes problems, the message of both the
medieval manuscript and of Orffs recreation.