Carmina Burana and Paganini Rhapsody

Rachmaninov's Paganini Rhapsody
and Orff's Carmina Burana at Melbourne Town Hall


Sergei Rachmaninov: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43  (Piano Soloist: Stefan Cassomenos)


Carl Orff: Carmina Burana (Cantiones profanæ)


The Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43, was written by the great Russian composer Segei Rachmaninov at his Villa in Switzerland,  in 1934. Rachmaninoff himself, a noted interpreter of his own works, played the solo piano part at the piece’s premiere at the Lyric Opera House in Baltimore, Maryland, on November 7, 1934 with the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Leopold Stokowski. Rachmaninoff went on to perform it all over the U.S. The Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini was a great popular success, and to this day is one of the best loved of Rachmaninov’s works.

The main theme is taken from the famous A minor caprice for solo violin, the last of the set of 24 published by Paganini. At first glance it seems strange that this relatively obscure piece should have become the most fruitful source of variations of all time, having been used by, amongst others, Liszt, Brahms, Rachmaninov, Schumann, Lutoslawski and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Yet it possesses all the attributes needed for a theme to be used as a basis for variations; an instantly recognisable framework, a clear harmonic outline, and a distinctive rhythmic shape. The Dies Irae makes a final dramatic appearance in the heavy brass, but it is the soloist who has the last word with a final throwaway scrap of Paganini’s tune. Lush and drippingly romantic in places, the genius of the famous 18th variation theme is that it is, in fact, Paganini’s theme turned upside down and played more slowly, creating what is probably Rachmaninoff’s most famous theme and one of the world’s best loved classical themes of all time.

Carl Orff’s 1936 choral masterpiece Carmina Burana remains one of the most popular pieces of the classical music repertoire and one of the most iconic choral works of the 20th century. Its opening chorus, O Fortuna, is well-known to audiences of all ages, having been heard in countless movies, TV advertisements and even rock concerts! Orff based the work on a series of 24 secular medieval poems, which cover a range of subjects including the perils of drinking, gluttony and lust.

Featuring a cast of over 300 performers, this concert promises to be a spectacular symphonic experience. Book early!

Greta Bradman, soprano

Tobias Cole, counter tenor

Andrew Jones, baritone

Stefan Cassomenos piano

The Australian Children’s Choir

Melbourne University Choral Society

Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir 

 Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Orchestra

Andrew Wailes, conductor


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