Oh Fortuna!

I love Oh Fortuna! It just sounds sooo epic. Chances are you’ve heard of Oh Fortuna too but you just didn’t know it. Even though it is probably the most used (and parodied) score, it is not usually referred to in its name.

Browsing through my iTunes library the other day, I noticed that I have two versions of Oh Fortuna.

Not that it’s a big deal. I’ve already said I love the score. Out of curiosity (and a constant need to clean up disk space in my laptop) I listened to the two tracks to see if I can delete one of them.

This is the one performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Choir:

This is the one performed by the New England Conservatory Orchestra and the New England Conservatory Choir:

The performances are almost identical, save for two things: the vocal composition of the choir and the tempo.

Now, never mind the vocal composition of the choir. It does not really affect me if the singers of the New England Conservatory have more powerful voices than the London Philharmonic (I am lying, of course. It matters to me A LOT). I want to talk about the tempo.

In terms of track length, the two performances have an approxmately 5 second difference. This suggests, even at first glance, that one performance takes longer than the other. And indeed the rendition of Oh Fortuna by the London Philharmonic has a lower tempo. The difference is almost negligible, especially to the untrained ear, and especially when the score opens. However, when the poem (Yes, Oh Fortuna is actually a poem) reaches its final stanza, the performance by the New England Conservatory has more power. When the choir and orchestra picks up their volume together, the New England Conservatory version just delivers (I think) the resentment and frustration that Oh Fortuna is about (Plus, in my head I imagine the violinists and percussionists of the New England Orchestra going crazy. Awesome!). I’m currently amazed by how a little thing like tempo makes all the difference in a performance (Of course, I should know this, and my music teachers would cry if they heard me talking about this).

Anyway, I’m keeping both tracks. I still think Oh Fortuna is epic!


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