The “merry” face of spring

April 4, 2016 at 10:30 am

You’ve heard Carmina Burana before – everyone has, thanks to the opening chorus. People can’t get enough of this one. You can find it in movies, video games, commercials, sports events, and flash mobs (I was there!) It’s an awesome romp through the carnal pleasures of spring – some of the poems are quite erotic, some philosophical, some are brutal mockery, some are just plain weird, and yes, there are even fart jokes.

Poor Carl Orff – he was 40 when he composed Carmina (1936), and after it became so popular, he asked his publisher to destroy all his previous work, so that Carmina would be the beginning of his career, not the midpoint (or end?). The work was so well received that the Nazis allowed it to be performed, even though they disapproved of the erotic subject matter. The work’s popularity might be attributed to: 1) most movements follow simple song formats which are melodic and easy to remember, which was in stark contrast to much of the Art Music written at the time 2) a HUGE orchestra and chorus make this rock! 3) who doesn’t like a good dirty poem now and then?

This movement from Carmina is a poem about spring. I put “merry” in quotes because, if you didn’t know the text, you might think it was about something else – something much more somber and serious.

The merry face of spring turns to the world, sharp winter now flees, vanquished; bedecked in various colours.
Flora reigns, the harmony of the woods praises her in song. Ah!
Lying in Flora’s lap Phoebus once more smiles, now covered in many-coloured flowers, Zephyr breathes nectar-scented breezes.
Let us rush to compete for love’s prize. Ah!
In harp-like tones sings the sweet nightingale, with many flowers the joyous meadows are laughing,
a flock of birds rises up through the pleasant forests, the chorus of maidens already promises a thousand joys. Ah!