Teodor currentzis

Apocalyptic minimalism: Carl Orff’s final opera, at Salzburg Festival, reviewed

‘Germany’s greatest artistic asset, its music, is in danger,’ warned The Spectator in June 1937. Reporting from the leading new-music festival in Darmstadt, the correspondent mentioned only one première of the two dozen on offer: ‘The most important achievement was the scenic cantata Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, a piece that would have been impossible without the influence of the “cultural Bolshevik” Stravinsky.’ He’s not wrong: give Stravinsky’s Les Noces some nail clippers and a face scrub and you get Orff. Carmina Burana can today seem irredeemably boorish and kitsch. But you can see how the piece’s hiccupy primitivism might have once startled. Still no less startling today is Orff’s