Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Carmina Burana expressions translated

It's easy find translations of the lyrics of Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" from places like ASO Chorus.org and even YouTube-videos:

You can even find all sorts of fun trivia about the music itself and parody "mis-heard" lyrics (handy when you need to memorize).

But where is the translation of the many unusual Italian instructions that the German Carl wrote in his score for the musicians?  You have to know those along with the more typical Italian words describing music if you are going to sing the thing, like Portland Symphonic Choir will soon.

I couldn't find them already gathered anywhere.  So, starting with the title then by movements without much (explanation) [insertion] else, here are:

Orff's Italian and Latin expressions in English

Carmina Burana:  Songs [of the Benedict monks] of Beuern [in Bavaria, Germany]

Cantiones profanæ cantoribus et choris:  Secular music for singers and choruses
cantandæ comitantibus instrumentis: to be sung together with instruments
atque imaginibus magicis: and magic images (projections)

Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi: Fortune, Empress of the World
Pesante: heavy, ponderous.
poco: a little
stringendo: pressed faster
attacca: go on without pause

sempre: always
ben declamato: well declaimed

I – Primo vere: Part 1 - In springtime (literally, "first truth")
un poco pesante: a little ponderous
Coro piccolo: Little chorus
molto flessibile: very flexible
espr.: espressivo: expressive
poco più lento, tranquillo: a little slower, tranquil

sempre molto: always very
rubato: robbing duration of some notes for others at whim. (literally, "stolen")

Con ampiezza: with breadth
quasi allegretto:  somewhat fast
stacc: staccatto:  detached
legato e più sciolto:  smooth and looser
allegro molto:  very fast
ma un poco più accelerato: but a little more accelerated
ancora più presto di prima: even more quickly than before

Uf dem anger: In the meadow
Tanz:   Dance

cullando:  rocking
poco più mosso:  [with a] little more movement
dolcissimo:  very sweetly
Coro grande: Large chorus

quasi andante:  like an andante (medium slow tempo)
semplice: simply
a bocca chiusa: with lips closed (humming)

Reie:  round dance
esitante:  hesitant

unis. unison:  as one together
poco: a little
ritenuto: suddenly holding the tempo back

II – In Taberna: Part 2 - in the tavern
con spirito:  with spirit
con slancio:  with rushing
stentato: broken

lamentoso  lamenting
sempre ironico: always ironic

libero improvvisando: freely improvising
gesticolando e beffardo assai: very gesturing and mocking

sempre eccitato: always excited
staccatissimo: always very detached
con rumore: with noise
subtio molto stentato: suddenly very broken
sfrenato: unrestrained
selvaggio:  savagely
scatenato: unleashed
accel. possibile: accelerating as much as possible
urlante: yelling

III Cour d'amore:: Part 3. Court of love.
Ragazzi:  boys
un poco impertinente:  a little impertinently
con extrema civetteria:  with extreme coquettishness
fingendo innocenze:  faking innocence
flebile:  feebly

tenero: tender
ma sempre esagerato: but always exaggerated
affettato:  mincing

lusinghevole:  flattering

ardente:  ardently
con calore crescente:  with increasing heat
molto appassionato:  very impassioned
ancora più mosso:   even more moving
brioso: lively

allegro:  fast (literally: happy)
buffo: funny
con comica esagerazione: with comic exaggeration
lunga: long

martellato: hammered

molto amoroso: very loving

ma: but
sempre velato: always veiled

con estrema sensibilità: with extreme sensitivity
smorz.: smorzando: dying away

piu lento: a little slower

con abbandono:  with abandon

Blanziflor et Helena:  Blancheflour and Helen [of Troy]
                                 (two beautiful, chaste women of disparate legends)
ten.  tenuto:  held


Let me know if I missed anything, please.



Monday, October 6, 2014

Arrangement Difficulty ratings

Hi Gary,
What is it that determines the degree of difficulty of a song?  With recordings, now available, and with 
the different voices prominent, isn't this "rating" 
still important?


Good question.

"Difficulty ratings", even in carefully defined fields like piano playing, are always somewhat subjective. 

Barbershop Harmony website that lists all the arrangements and their difficulties as "easy", "medium" or "hard" makes "Hello, Mary Lou" the standard as a medium difficulty.   I agree.

Any director will  look for things that are neither way too easy nor way to hard in all of several areas:

Barbershop voicing.  (Leads have a hard time learning harmony for more than a few notes)
Range of the parts. (Highest note and lowest note of each part)
Tessitura of the parts.   (Where the part mostly lies:  staying low or high is harder)
Leaps in the harmony parts.  (lots are hard; few are easy)
Key center shifts (are interesting, but hard. "folks dressed up like Eskimos")
Harmonic complexity. (Many accidentals make for tricky singing)
Rhythmic complexity.  (counterpoint and drum-like parts are fun, but tricky)

This demands that directors have a good assessment of their group, what they can do, and how well they do it.  Even one "too difficult" area can make the song never quite fly.

As a side note about considering arrangements for programming, you also consider:

General popularity of the song at its heyday (and if your target audience will know it)

Mood and style of the piece (is it fresh or repetitive in your repertoire?)