The words "original version" on the cover of this release are doubtless intended to indicate to the casual browser that this is not a recording of Carl Orff's choral spectacle called Carmina Burana, but of the pieces that inspired that work, contained in a medieval manuscript rediscovered in the nineteenth century in a Bavarian village called Benediktbeuern (hence "Carmina Burana," or songs or Beuern). For listeners who have followed the early music scene since its flowering in the 1970s; however, the notation may be a little misleading. For this is not the "original version" of the medieval Carmina Burana recorded by the Clemencic Consort and its pioneering leader René Clemencic around 1976, but a return to the music by the same group, appropriately gray around the temples. It's still state of the art. There are some differences and some similarities. Chief among the former is that this release contains only one disc of songs from the 200-odd pieces in the Codex Buranus; the previous release had three discs. Nevertheless, the album includes samples from all the categories represented in the manuscript: the delightfully named Carmina Moralia et Satirica (Songs of Morality and Satire), the Carmina Divina (Divine Songs), the Carmina Veris et Amoris (Songs of Spring and Love), the Carmina Amoris Infelicis (Songs of Unhappy Love), and the Carmina Potatorum (Drinking Songs). The Carmina Burana as a whole is known for its raunchier moments, of which several are included here, but what's less well known is that it included some lovely examples of religious poetry. Clemencic assembles these contrasting elements into an almost quasi-dramatic structure, probably resembling no program that would have been sung in the songs' own time, but quite effective for the modern hearer and tighter in conception than the larger earlier release. The similarities include the retention of a generally raucous atmosphere that recognizes that these were student songs. The male vocalists adopt an almost rock & roll-like vocal timbre that raises the energy level quite a bit, but may not be attractive for those who go into a medieval recording looking for a meditative quality (they are, it's true, in the wrong place already with the Carmina Burana). That said, this reading has more of a quality of precisely controlled high energy than did the earlier recording. The instrumental sound reflects evolving conceptions of how medieval music was accompanied. Clemencic uses a hint of Arabic influence in the form of a darabuka clay drum, and the collection of instruments also includes a hurdy-gurdy and a Scandinavian nyckelharpa, or keyed fiddle. These revolve from piece to piece, and in general the most striking feature of this disc is the variation in sound from track to track. Texts are given in the original language (Latin or medieval German), modern German, and English. The engineering is top-notch, and the Clemencic Consort shows that it can still set the standard for medieval music after being at it for several decades.