Carl Orff's Carmina Burana is as much a harbinger of spring as the budding of the trees and the return of songbirds. Orff's masterpiece takes its content and form from the medieval poems satirizing the then-current rules for Catholic priests and the coeval idea of the wheel of fortune. This wheel has nothing to do with Pat Sajak and everything to do with the concept of what goes around comes around. All things were cyclical to the medieval mind, and so you fell from king to pauper as the wheel of your life turned. Thanks to Orff's driving rhythms and the text's imagery of joyous carousing, new love and lands of plenty, Carmina Burana is a thrilling experience. But a little introspection yields a better understanding of Fortune's machinations. Consider Olim lacus colueram, the exact middle piece in the cantata; this song is sung from the point of view of a swan that's being slow roasted in the tavern where everyone is having such a jolly time. As the swan laments its lost freedom and beauty, the crowd roars its delight -- and soon the crowd shall roast while someone else cavorts. Carlos Izcaray conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, accompanied by the St. Louis Symphony Chorus and the St. Louis Children's Choirs, through Carmina Burana at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday (May 1 through 4) at Powell Symphony Hall (718 North Grand Boulevard; 314-534-1700 or www.slso.org). Tickets are $30 to $109.
May 1-3, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 4, 3 p.m., 2014