Recorded September 1987
Erato CD 0630-14987-2 Reissued by Warner Classics as Apex CD 2564 62084-2
"You'll have trouble sitting still...the kind of dramatic energy normally felt only in live performance"
-- Vernier, Amazon.com
THE BOSTON CAMERATA
Anne Azéma, soprano, organetto
Christy Catt, soprano, harp
Catherine Jousselin, mezzo-soprano
Heather Knutson, soprano
John Fleagle, tenor, harp, hurdy-gurdy
Joel Frederiksen, bass-baritone
William Hite, tenor
John Holyoke, baritone
Mark Sprinkle, tenor
Joel Cohen, baritone, lutes, percussion
Robert Mealy, medieval fiddle, harp
Margriet Tindemans, medieval fiddle, rebec, gittern
Steven Lundahl, recorders, shawm, slide trumpet
Ben Harms, percussion
members of The Harvard University Choir, Murray Forbes Somerville, director
transcriptions/editions/reconstructions of the melodies,
from the Carmina Burana manuscript and from other medieval sources by:
Thomas Binkley, René Clemencic, Joel Cohen, Walter Lipphardt, Miriam K. Whaples
musical arrangements by Joel Cohen
language consultant: M.J. Connolly
production coordinator: Larry Hawes
This program is dedicated to the memory of Thomas Binkley.
The ages-old manuscript, that lay in the vaults of the Benediktbeuren monastery in Bavaria, did not begin with the usual devotions. On the contrary, the opening song -- meant as some satirical mime, or a dance perhaps -- cast a cynical eye on worldly reality: "Right and wrong go walking, almost in step together, and virtue must take care to stay halfway between two vices.... Be friendly and smooth towards everyone, but be careful.. misplaced charity is no virtue... If you wisely sift the wheat from the chaff, your donation will buy fame." The next song, on the same page, was no prayer to the Virgin, but rather a hymn to Goddess Fortune: "Fate, monstrous and empty, you are a malevolent, whirling wheel."
And the image on that opening page was not some pious one of a Nativity or a Crucifixion. Instead, a wheel of Fortune (framed by an eerie, inverted cross) is presented as an allegory of life: A king on his throne at the top; on his right, a poor schlemiel sliding down and away from power; another unfortunate in the dumps at the bottom, and a third climbing back up on the left.
Though there are Christian prayers -- and even a passion play -- in this manuscript, the one now called the Carmina Burana, the pagan spirit inspiring most of the poems reminds us that the rough, intense world of medieval Europe was anything but a Sunday School picnic. Did some wealthy ecclesiastic piece together this anthology of (mostly-Latin) songs because of their literary grace, or their musical interest? Or, despite his ecclesiastical functions, was he seduced by the hard-nosed satire, the raw sensuality of so many of the poems?
In any case, we can only be grateful, for Carmina Burana is probably the most important source of secular, medieval Latin poetry that we now have. The songs were collected, somewhere in Germany, from many places and sources, most likely in the early decades of the thirteenth century. (Surprisingly, perhaps, to those who already know the Carl Orff oratorio, with its 1930's German-nationalist subtext, the original compiler(s) had international, "European" tastes. Most of the Carmina pieces with known authors are of French origin-- and we have recovered a number of the tunes from French and Provençal manuscripts.)
Despite their markedly secular content, most of the songs were written in the shadow of the Church. A number of them in fact deal with church politics, and corruption in the hierarchy. The Latin they generally employ (there are some in medieval German and even one, Doleo quod nimium, in a mixture of Latin, French, and Provençal) was an ecclesiastical language, learned by all in the church hierarchy, high -- refined poets like Philip the Chancellor -- and low -- the anonymous "wandering scholars" or goliards who presumably penned the many lusty songs to Bacchus and Venus. Much has been written about these clerks, who entered the service of the Church to gain financial and material advancement; it was a good path to take for a bright, literate young man from a modest background. Furthermore, once in orders, a scholar was exempt from civil law, and could only be tried by an ecclesiastical court. This rule kept any number of tonsured troublemakers safely out of reach of the local police.
How were these brilliant, scabrous, touching, vivacious songs sung? Most of them appear in the manuscript source without music -- and the ones that do have an accompanying tune use a notation system so maddeningly imprecise that scholars have been fighting about the "correct" solutions for generations. Carl Orff wrote his own tunes. We, more modestly, attempt to reconstruct the original melodies whenever possibe, or to reconstruct/borrow plausible tunes from other medieval sources. But then, what style of performance would be appropriate? We can, of course, never know for sure. All of the songs, even the ones with the most scurillous subject matter, show considerable learning -- they are not simply folksongs. And yet, the refined and courtly manner of the troubadours many not be appropriate for texts that describe the best way to bribe an official, or a stomach upset, or adolescent dating behavior. Perhaps a mix of musical approaches may be most appropriate: just as the manuscript itself contains elements of both "high" and "low" art, our performances seek to draw out the different expressive possibilities inherent in, and suggested by, the original material.
The first, pioneering attempt to reconstruct original Carmina Burana melodies in modern performance was made by the Studio der Frühen Musik in the mid 1960's. The ensemble's leader, a renegade young American expatriate named Thomas Binkley, created a mini-revolution in the musical world. Along with the Studio's main singer, mezzo-soprano Andrea von Ramm, Binkley forged a daring new approach to the interpretation of medieval song, literally re-inventing a convincing performance style for important, long-forgotten works. Everyone who has played and sung medieval music since then is indebted to those wonderful, audacious experiments. We dedicate this recording to Tom Binkley's memory.
The Songs, and Some Brief Translations
I. Right and wrong go walking Fas et nefas ambulant Gauthier de Châtillon (?)
Right and wrong go walking, almost in step together, and virtue must take care to stay halfway between two vices. As Cato says, "Walk with the good," and consider who is worthy of your gifts. Be friendly and smooth towards everyone, but be careful to discern the grain among the chaff; misplaced charity is no virtue. You can give properly only when you know who I really am, from the inside. If you wisely sift the wheat from the chaff, your donation will buy fame. I glory in you, for you are loaded with wealth!
O varium fortune
O slippery unconstancy of Fortune! You hold unstable court, and you reward those whom you favour immoderately. You make uncertain the one who has climbed to the top of the wheel, and you raise the pauper from the dungheap. Fortune has built, and demolished, abandoning those she previously pampered. Her gifts are fleeting; she ennobles and enriches the weak, and brings down the noble. Nothing is more welcome than Fortune's grace; among all that is sweet, nothing is sweeter than fame. If only it lasted longer! but it falls apart, like a withered field. Thus, it is not unfitting that I sing: O slippery inconstancy of Fortune!
O fortuna, velut luna
O Fortune! You are as changeable and inconstant as the moon, ever waxing and waning. This hateful life first oppresses, then assuages, as fancy dictates, melting poverty and power like ice. Fate, monstrous and empty, you are a malevolent, whirling wheel. Vain wellbeing always dissolves; veiled in the shadows, you pursue me. Now I bring to you my bare backside. Fate is against me in matters of health and virtue. I am driven on, weighed down, enslaved. At this time, pluck the vibrating string, and may all weep with me!
Bonum est confidere Philippe le Chancellier
It is good to trust in the Lord of Lords; it is good to place our trust in the object of our hope. They deceive themselves, who trust in the power of kings, and they exclude themselves from the court of the Most High. Follow the ways of righteousness, study improvement, earn your bread through the sweat of your brow.
Curritur ad vocem
Everyone is running towards the voice of Money, a pleasing sound indeed. Everyone goes after that which is forbidden. That's how to live! The way the priests do! They will judge a case for a small fee. If you let down your net, you can fish up up your reward, and with interest. If anyone in this business doesn't know how the world works, let him choose, or disappear: Get what you need, by whatever means necessary. law is no deterrent; the judiciary doesn't matter. Where virtue is crime, God has no place!
II. Lords of misrule
Dum iuventus floruit While youth flowered, I could do whatever pleased me, to run about at will and give myself to the pleasures of the flesh. But the state of manhood does not allow one to lead such a life; those familiar ways are anulled. The spirit of the age said, "Nothing is to be ruled out;" and it has given me everything for my pleasures. I want to be prudent, to abstain from what I have done in the past, to dedicate myself to serious things, and to redeem with my virtues my former sins.
from the "Officium Lusorum" (Gambler's Mass):
Mourn we all in Decius, for the pain of all those who gamble. The gods of the dice rejoice in their nakedness, and praise the son of Bacchus. They should forsake the Dice, now and forever. Firmly shall this fraud speak from my mouth.
Sequence (melody: Victimae paschali laudes)
To the new victim of Five and Six shall the dice swear alliegance. Five and Six take the clothing, robbing the victim of coats, vests, and horses. An extraordinary battle rages between winning and losing; now he cries, "O Fortune, what have you done to me? How quickly have you forsaken me, leaving me helpless!" Five and Six, in you lies my hope. Ah, if you would only appear on the gaming table. Old man Seven, come down from heaven!
Alte clamat epicurus
Loudly brags the bon vivant: "Happiness is a full belly; the stomach shall be my God; the kitchen, from which come divine odors, shall be his temple." Quite a convenient deity, never long on a fast; the gourmet throws up his wine to make room for his breakfast. His sacral objects are the dinner table and the wine vessal. He's always full up, skin a-swollen. His cheeks glow red, and his member stands erect, strong as a chain. Still, practicing this religion upsets the stomach. The belly aches when you mix wine and beer. Tis a good life when the tummy works hard! The stomach says: "I care for noone but myself, and so, gently taking care of my well-being, acting on food and drink, I sleep and I rest."
Olim lacus colueram (melody: Dies irae)
Once I lived on lakes, once I was beautiful, when I was a swan. Pity, pity, black roasted lump! Once I was whiter, and more beautiful; now I am all blackened. Pity, pity, black roasted lump! Now I am roasting the steward turns me over and again on the spit, and sprinkles me with pepper. Pity, pity, black roasted lump! Now I lie on a plate, and cannot fly away. Bared teeth do I see! Pity, pity, black roasted lump!
Dic Christe veritas
Tell me, truth of Christ, rarest thing, rare Charity, where do you now live? In the valley of visions, or on Pharaoh's throne, or on high with Nero? In the bullrushes, with weeping Moses? Or rather, in the palace of Rome, when the Pope's bull roars?
Bulla fulminante Philippe le Chancellier
Where the bull roars, under thundering justice, the defendant appeals, and fails. Truth is suppressed, Justice is a whore. Run to and fro at the Curia, but you'll get nothing until you are stripped of your last penny. If you seek a position, you will point to your record in vain. Do not pretend to virtue; you might offend your judge. You'll wait months, unless your bribe is sufficiently large. The doorkeepers of the Pope are deafer than Cerberus. Even if you were Orpheus, you would plead in vain. Rap instead with a silver hammer. Jupiter pleaded in vain with Danae; but he got her maidenhead anyway, when he colored himself in gold. Gold is all-powerful; it speaks more eloquently than Cicero...that's why Crassus swallowed it, boiling hot.
Bacche, bene venies
Bacchus, be welcome, for you make our spirits happy. This wine, good wine makes every drinker brave and bold. Bacchus, once you have come into a man's breast, you ignite his spirit for love. This wine, good wine makes every drinker brave and bold. Bacchus goes out looking for the sex of woman; he subjects them all to you, o Venus. This wine, good wine... Bacchus can flatteringly entice womens' hearts, and make them willing to give themselves to a man. This wine, good wine... Beloved God Bacchus, here we are assembled, drinking happily to your generosity. This wine, good wine... Water prevents sexual intercourse; (but) Bacchus makes doing it easy. This wine, good wine makes every drinker brave and bold.
III. Hail, bountiful Venus!
Tempus transit gelidum
The cold times pass, the world is renewed, the flowers and spring return. The birds rejoice with pleasure, and the air is cheerful. Decorous maidens play on the grass, singing new songs from their sweet mouths, and joyfully the birds join in. The heart is touched by love, as girls and birds make music. Now the boy with the quiver spreads his nets -- by him was I conquered and wounded. At first, I fought and resisted, but the boy once again made me a subject of Venus. And, so injured, I fell in love. She has bound me with a strong bond, and to her I am devoted. How sweet are her kisses, sweeter than cinammon, or honey from the comb.
Doleo, quod nimium
How I mourn, and I shall perish, if I see no more la joie que j'avais. Your sweet face makes me cry mille fois, and your heart is as ice; yet a baiser would cure me. Alas, what shall I do? What news from France? Shall I lose l'amour de ma belle? Friends, now counsel me, pour votre honneur. Sweet friend, pour votre amour do I weep and moan; friends, laissez-moi!
Ecce chorus virginum
Here are the maids dancing in the springtime, with the sun's rays lancing. Now soften your rejoicing, and lay boughs at the altar of Beauty. In this flowery vale, sweet and fragrant, is a place of flowers and violets, where the birds sing sweetly. Lay boughs at the altar of Beauty! Here come the flower-garlanded maidens; Who will tell them the old tales, yet avoiding the sad story of Dido? Lay boughs at the altar of Beauty!
At the break of day, the shepherdess went out, with herd, staff, and spring lambs; in the little flock are a sheep and a donkey, a cow and a calf, a young buck and a she-goat. She saw a student sitting on the grass. "What are you doing, Milord? Come play with me!"
Sic mea fata
Like the swan at the hour of its death, I sing to console my sorrow. The rosy color quits my cheeks, the pain grows, I die, I die, for I must love, and not be loved. I would be happier than Jupiter if the one whom I desire would pity me, if just once I could kiss her lips, if for just one night I could sleep with her. I could undergo death for such joy, I could, I could. When I saw her breasts, I wanted to cup them in my hands, and play with each nipple in turn; thus I imagined the pleasures of love. The flush of shame covered my face; desire urged me to lick her mouth, to lick, lick, lick, and to leave a love-mark on her!
O mi dilectissime
O my most delightful one, with the most serene face! Mandaliet, my beloved comes not! Your face shows how much nobility is in you, mixed with your blood. Mandaliet, my beloved comes not! Who is this beautiful girl? I burn for her love. Mandaliet, my beloved comes not! In my heart, there are many sighs for your beauty, that wounds me sorely. Mandaliet, my beloved comes not! Your eyes shine like the rays of the sun, like the flashing of lightning. Mandaliet, my beloved comes not! May the gods grant what I have in mind -- that I may untie her virgin knot! Mandaliet, my beloved comes not!
Veni veni venias/Chume chume geselle min
(Latin text:) Come, come, do not make me die. Too-whit-too whoo, chirrup! Beatuful is your face, your eyes, your hair; what a fine specimen! Redder than rose, whiter than the lily, I revel in you! (German text:) Come, come, my beloved, I beg you. Sweet rose-red mouth, come and make me healthy!
Ich was ein chint
Once I was the purest of virgins; all praised my innocence. Alas, alas, cursed be that linden tree by the wayside! I went to the meadow to pick some flowers, and there I met a jacknape who wanted my flower. He took me by my white hand, not immodestly; he led me to a ditch, deceitfully. Cursed be that linden tree!... He clutched at my white dress, most indecently; he drew me towards him, roughly. Cursed be that linden tree! He said, "Lady, let's go to some secluded place. Cursed be the path he took; now I lament it. Cursed be that linden tree! Not far from the road, there stands a linden tree, and there I placed my harp, my tambourine, and my lyre. Cursed be that linden tree! As he came to the linden tree he said, "Let's sit down" -- he was under passion's spell -- "let's play a game." Cursed be that linden tree! He grasped my white body, despite my shyness; he said "I shall make you my wife -- how sweet is your mouth." Cursed be that linden tree! He took off my dress, baring my body; he besieged my little castle, with his stiff lance. Cursed be that linden tree! He picked up his quiver and bow (A fine hunt!); having betrayed me, he said, "Game's over." Cursed be that linden tree!
Ecce gratum et optatum
Behold, the pleasant spring brings back rejoicing. The fields are full of violets, the sun brightens everything, sadness recedes. Now the snow melts and disappears, and the Spring sucks at the breast of Summer. Unhappy he who neither lives nor lusts under Summer's rule. At Venus' command, let us glory and rejoice, since we are the equals of Paris.
Tempus est jocundum
Hear is the joyful time, o maidens; rejoice with them, o young men! Oh, oh, I am in flower, I burn -- it's a new, new love that I'm dying of....In winter time, man waits, in the breath of spring he becomes passionate. Oh, oh, I am in flower... My virginity makes me play games with myself, my innocence holds me back. Oh, oh, I am in flower...
Boston Camerata's Carmina Burana
a review from Amazon.com
You'll have trouble sitting still when you listen to this lively, fun collection of songs from the famous 13th century Benediktbeuren monastery manuscript known as Carmina Burana. The most important compendium of secular medieval Latin poetry, Carmina Burana sheds fascinating light on the activities of a number of poets and composers--many of their names are forgotten today--whose often irreverent stories and poetic descriptions seem at odds with their religious affiliations. The ruthless unpredictability of fate, the delightful turmoil and tribulations of love, the sensuality of springtime--all of these topics are addressed, sometimes with poetic elegance, but just as often with unsubtle lasciviousness and vulgarity. The Boston Camerata gives us a delightful mix, projecting the kind of dramatic energy normally felt only in live performance. --David Vernier