Carmina burana

Carl Orff: a hapless German Shostakovich, muddling through as best he could under a psychotic tyranny? Or a musical Riefenstahl, lending his labor and reputation to the Nazi cause, then denying it all later? It doesn’t help that his 1937 cantata Carmina burana—settings of medieval songs mostly about sex and drinking—became immediately very popular in Hitler’s Germany. Or that its ominously galumphing opening/closing chorus, “O fortuna,” is pretty much the ultimate sonic analogue to jackboots marching in formation. For a full, fascinating discussion of the life of this composer (1895-1982) under the Third Reich, see Michael H. Kater’s Composers of the Nazi Era: Eight Portraits. (Kater’s discussion of the elderly Richard Strauss, who had a Jewish daughter-in-law and grandsons to worry about, is especially poignant.) One culpable thing Orff did do is compose new music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream to replace the Jewish Felix Mendelssohn’s Nazi-discarded score; Seattle Symphony conductor Gerard Schwarz wryly redresses this wrong by preceding the Orff tonight with Mendelssohn’s Son and Stranger overture. Also, concertmaster Maria Larionoff plays Spohr’s elegant Violin Concerto No. 8. GAVIN BORCHERT

Thu., Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 13, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 14, 8 p.m., 2009

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