Carl Orff

German Composer (Munich, 1895 – Munich, 1982)

Carl Orff was a German composer whose most famous work remains the scenic cantata Carmina Burana. Between 1933 and 1945, his ambiguous attitude towards the Third Reich still rises many controversies. Even though he was never a member of the Nazi Party he accepted many commissions from the regime.

Born into a military family, Carl Orff was introduced to classical music at an early age. His mother who was an amateur pianist encouraged him to study the cello, piano and organ. In 1917 he was called up but was demobilized due to injury before the end of the year. After his return from the Front he was appointed by the Mannheim and Darmstadt Operas but relinquished his role at the Darmstadt in order to concentrate on his composition studies. While studying the works of Claudio Monteverdi he developed a passion for the Italian Renaissance, and performed in several productions of Orfeo.

In 1937 Carl Orff created what would become his seminal masterwork Carmina Burana. This work was inspired by the discovery of several poems from the Middle Ages found in Beuren Abbey, close to Munich. In Carmina Burana texts in Latin, Middle High German and Old French are combined. The secular subjects depict universal topics: lust, gambling, the pleasures of alcohol, the ephemeral nature of life... The most well-known movement is the choral first movement O Fortuna. In 1943 Orff composed Catulli Carmina and then Trionfo di Afrodite which along with Carmina Burana form the 1953 trilogy - Trionfi-Trittico Teatrale

Following the immediate success of Carmina Burana, Carl Orff requested his publisher to cease publication of his previous works. 

Carl Orff developed a passion for music education, to such an extent that he considered his work in this domain as an integral part of his work. 

"Every human shares an innate sense of creativity, my objective as an educator is to discover and reveal the creator that lurks within us all" Carl Orff, in the documentary Carl Orff by T. Palmer (1997)

After founding the Günterschule school with dancer Dorothy Günther in 1924, Carl Orff created an educational collection known as the Orff-Schulwerk. This method was based on learning music in an intuitive way through the use of percussion instruments, song and movement. 

Carl Orff died aged 86 and was interred according to his wishes at Audechs where a festival dedicated to his memory, Orff in Andech, takes place annually. 

Three Landmark Dates in the Life of Carf Orff :
1912  : Munich Music Academy
1924  : Founded a school of dance with Dorothy Günther
1948  : Publication of his book on his music education « Musik für Kinder »

Three Key Works by Carl Orff
1913  : Gisei, Carl Orff's first opera, based on a Japanese play. Contains musical influences from Debussy, Puccini & Richard Strauss.
1937  : Premiere of Carmina Burana in Frankfurt
1939  : Composed the operas Der Mond and Die Kluge based on the Grimm fairytales.