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ClassicsOnline Home » ORFF, C.: Antigonae [Opera] (Sawallisch)
Orff as opera - historic reissue
The first thing to remember when checking out any of the operas by Carl Orff is that you are listening to Carl Orff. Best known for his massive para-cantata "Carmina Burana", Orff did also write operas that he intended more as music dramas or, in this case, "Sophoclean tragedy". Orff's style is characteristic - the orchestra is quite percussive and quite unusual; very spare strings but six pianos, four harps, six winds apiece and a large mallet based percussion battery. Similarily, the vocal writing is lean; lots of repeated pitch across big blocks of text and frequently in the outer ranges of his principal singers. When "Antigone" first premiered in 1949, it did not fare well - it requires very patient and attentive listening as most of his operas and theatre output presage minimalism. Indeed "Antigone" and - similarly his partner piece "Oedipus Rex" - have much less genuine "melody" than either "Carmina" or the "Catulli Carmina". There is certainly much to admire in the current recording, which is actually a sonically pristine remaster of the 1958 Munich radio recording with Wollfang Sawallisch. The principal singers are all in top form, most notably Martha Modl, a mezzo singing spectacularly in the title character's role originally intended as a soprano. The audio quality is terrific; the orchestra in particular sparkles in in its densest moments. The casual listener needs to adjust to Orff's tendency to propel and then back off; build and then recede but for any Orff fan or anyone interested in some landmark music from a very recently post-Reich Germany will find it rewarding and fascinating. Kudos to Hanssler for making this little known master work available.more....
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ORFF, C.: Antigonae [Opera] (Sawallisch)