Carl Orff, Carmina Burana (1937)

The ubiquitous presence of Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna” in movies, television shows, and even commercials makes it difficult to imagine that someone has never heard it. Although it might sound a little spooky or devilish, it is actually part of a larger piece of music based on a collection of twelfth-century poems about the pleasures of love, nature, and alcohol. The piece is titled Carmina Burana (Songs of Beuern), and “O Fortuna serves as an introduction and coda to the piece.

Here’s the lyrics to “O Fortuna" to follow as you listen to the video below. I have also embedded a playlist of
Carmina Burana in its entirety.

O Fortuna, (O Fortune,)
velt luna
(like the moon)
statu variabilis, (you are changeable,)
semper crescis aut decrescis; (ever waxing and waning;)
vita detestabilis (hateful life)
nunc obdurat et tunc curat (first oppresses and then soothes)
ludo mentis aciem; (as fancy takes it;)
egestatem, potestatem (poverty and power)
dissolvit ut glaciem. (it melts them like ice.)

Sors immanis et inanis, (Fate — monstrous and empty,)
rota tu volubilis, (you whirling wheel,)
status malus, (you are malevolent,)
vana salus
(well-being is vain)
semper dissolubilis, (and always fades to nothing,)
obumbrata et velata (shadowed and veiled)
michi quoque niteris; (you plague me too;)
nunc per ludum (now through the game)
dorsum nundum
(I bring my bare back)
fero tui sceleris. (to your villainy._

Sors salutis (Fate is against me)
et virtutis
(in health)
michi nun contraria, (and virtue)
est affectus et defectus, (driven on and weighted down,)
semper in angaria. (always enslaved.)

Hac in hora (So at this hour)
sine mora
(without delay)
corde pulsum tangite; (pluck the vibrating strings;)
quod per sortem (since Fate)
sternit fortem,
(strikes down the strong man,)
mecum omnes plangit! (everyone weep with me!)




Grieg, Piano Concerto in A minor (1868)

Edvard Grieg stood only five feet tall and composed music while sitting on copies of Beethoven’s piano sonatas so he could reach the keyboard. His diminutive size, however, did not keep him from writing titanic music, as evident in his Piano Concerto in A minor. Next to the Peer Gynt Suites, the piano concerto is probably Grieg’s most well-known composition—and it’s a beaut. The great Franz Liszt performed it in Rome and made recommendations to Grieg for revising the score. Grieg responded by telling Liszt that he had performed the first movement too fast.

Arthur Rubinstein (piano) with André Previn conducting the London Symphony Orchestra


00:00 – First Movement
14:25 – Second Movement
21:32 – Third Movement

Grieg died on September 4, 1907, and his ashes were interred outside his home in Bergen, Norway. I took the photo below of Grieg's gravesite three years ago when I had the wonderful opportunity to tour his home.