Carl Orff’s iconic Carmina Burana brings 11th and 12th-century secular lyric poems vividly to life in music with a rich medieval patina yet in an unmistakably 20th-century style. Raucous drinking songs, a falsetto bass solo evoking a roasting swan, choruses laughing in the face of life’s fickleness; this is a piece fundamentally about seizing pleasure whilst one can – a hedonistic musical banquet.
Written as a companion piece to the piano and percussion arrangement of Carmina Burana, Jonathan Dove’s cantata Arion and the Dolphin makes full use of the instrumentation’s potential for gorgeous rippling water effects in this depiction of a Greek legend. The beautiful song-like libretto by Alasdair Middleton tells of the poet, Arion, who has just won a singing competition. When greedy sailors plot to kill him and take his prize money on the voyage home, Arion begs them to let him sing one final song. The music is so beautiful that dolphins come to listen, and on finishing the song Arion leaps into the sea where one of the dolphins rescues him by carrying him to shore. The dolphin is immortalised by being made into a constellation of stars, Delphinus.
In Imagine It! for choir and percussion duo, Janet Wheeler sets John Taylor’s all-encompassing libretto about creativity and discovery to music which perfectly embodies the spirit of invention. In just six minutes we get the Hadron Collider, Hamlet, Van Gogh’s colours, the moon landing and more – all exhibits in this musical museum of the fruits of the human mind.