Orff, Carl

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Carl Orff

Classical composer, music educator

For the Record

Orff and Hitlers Germany

Wrote Work for Actress Daughter

Selected writings

Selected discography


The work of German composer Carl Orff predates the late twentieth-century renewal of interest in the haunting, unusual melodies of medieval-era religious music by several decades. In the 1930s, Orff was composing works for the stage based on medieval Latin chants, and later revived the classic tales of love, lust, and blood from ancient Greek drama for modern audiences. Yet Orffs most famous work remains Carmina Burana, a 1937 homage to lifes more earthy pleasures based on a long-lost collection of medieval songs. The melodies he adapted into the stirring Carmina Burana have entered popular culture in the form of background music for television commercials and entrance pomp at sporting events. Orffs chorus seems to transcend period, place, authorship, even meaning, wrote Matthew Gurewitsch of Carmina Buranas lasting legacy in the Atlantic Monthly. Part paean, part lament, it purrs and roars like some titanic flywheel. This is chant the cosmos might sing to itself, as impersonal as a landslide or a tidal wave. The din it makes has all but obliterated its maker.

Orff was born in the Bavarian capital of Munich on July 10, 1895, into a long line of military officers in service to the local princes or the German kaiser. Orff, however, strayed down a far different path from an early age, perhaps inspired by the rich and varied offerings Munich offered to music-lovers. He began piano lessons at age of five, and also took up the organ and cello. As a child he began writing his own musical compositions, and loved to stage puppet shows for his household. As a teenager he set verse by German Romantic poets Friedrich Hoelderlin and Heinrich Heine to music, and had his first compositions published in 1911. He graduated from Munichs music academy, the Akademie der Tonkunst in 1914, and at the age of 20 took a job as the assistant Kapellmeister, or orchestra conductor, at the famed Muenchener Kammerspiele.

Orff stayed at the Kammerspiele from 1915 to 1917, but was drafted into the German Army during the last year of World War I. The long military traditions of the Orff family seemed to have genetically bypassed him, and the demands of war tested him greatly. The following year, upon his return to civilian life and the end of the war, Orff became assistant Kapellmeister at the Nationaltheater in Mannheim, as well as holding the same position at the Landestheater (State Theater) in nearby Darmstadt. In 1919, he returned to Munich and began teaching music; he also studied under Heinrich Kaminski, and it was through this avenue that Orff became interested in Renaissance-era music.

In 1924 Orff and gymnast Dorothea Guenther founded a Munich school for children whose legacy would continue long after their deaths. The Guenther Schules aim

For the Record

Born, July 10, 1895, in Munich, Germany; died of cancer, March 29, 1982, in Munich, Germany; son of Heinrich and Paula (Koestler) Orff; married to Lise Lotte; children: Godela (daughter). Education: Received degree from the Akademie der Tonkunst (Academy of Music), Munich, 1915; studied with Heinrich Kaminski, early 1920s.

Composer and music teacher; assistant Kapellmeister, or orchestra conductor, at the Muenchener Kammerspiele, 1915-17; also served in the same position at the Nationaltheater, Mannheim, and at the Landestheater, Darmstadt, both from 1918-19; co-founded Guenther Schule, Munich, with Dorothea Guenther, 1924; first work for the stage was Klage der Ariadne, which premiered in Karlsruhe, Germany, 1925; was active in Munichs Bach Society in the early 1930s and served as its director until 1934; taught a master class at Munichs Hochschule fuer Musik, 1950-60; was an instructor at the Orff School for Music at the Mozarteum Academy for Music and Dramatic Art in Salzburg, Austria, instructor, for over a decade, beginning in 1949; later served as its director until his death in 1982; received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Tuebingen (1955) and Munich (1972).

Awards: Munich Music Prize, 1947; New York Music Critics Prize, 1954, for Carmina Burana; Bremen Music Prize, 1956; Order pour le Merite for Science and Art, West Germany, 1956; Cross of Merit, 1959; Mozart Prize, Basel Goethe foundation, 1969.

was to teach music to children by a set of aesthetic-awareness principles Orff and Guenther had formulated, based on the idea that nearly all human beings are musical by nature. Orff wrote the treatise Schulwerk, which explained these theories and gave teachers a curriculum of songs and activities employing German folk songs and poetry. Even in the late twentieth century, thousands of teachers aroundthe world are certified in the program, and translated versions of Schulwerk incorporate the folklore and literature of each culture. Orff also developed easy-to-learn percussion instruments to use in the program.

Orff penned a number of works for the stage during the 1920s. His adaptation of one of operas first great works, Orpheus, was performed in Mannheim in 1925 with some of the original instruments used in Claudio Monteverdis 1607 production. The city of Karlsruhe hosted the debuts for Orffs Klage der Ariadne (Ariadnes Lament) and Tanz der Sproeden (Dance of the Merciless Beauties), also adaptations of Monteverdi operas, in 1925 as well. In the late 1920s, Orff was preoccupied in writing Schulwerk; in 1930, the same year its first part was published, Orff was named conductor of Munichs Bach Society. In 1931 he adapted a Bach passion play into a controversial stage version set in rural Bavaria, the maligned St. Luke Passion, which set the story of Christ among southern German peasantry.

Fame came to Orff, however, with the 1937 debut of Carmina Burana, and the stage work marked a radical new direction in his career as well: he even wrote his publisher instructing him to destroy all his previous works, since the composer felt that his career rightly began here. Carmina Burana, or the Songs of Beuren, was Orffs adaptation of a codex discovered in the archives of a Bavarian monastery in 1803. The manuscript was a collection of songs written down in the thirteenth century, and reflects the popular tastes of that age in its lyrics from wandering minstrels and spoofs written by the Benedictine monks. In the original Vulgar Latin, Old French, and Middle High German, its 200 songs poke fun at organized religion or celebrate carnal pursuits. Others reflect a love of nature or lifes gustatory pleasuresa goose on a spit, for instance, sings a comic lament over the fire. The plotless stage work Orff created from this used only about ten percent of the original manuscriptmuch of it the risqué textand its performance, though dance and pantomime, won him great praise upon its debut in 1937.

Orff and Hitlers Germany

Carmina Burana, it should be noted, was first staged in Frankfurt am Mains opera house during the height of Nazi power in Germany. Most of the countrys artists of this erathe composers, painters, or writers who were not Jewish and had not emigratedfound themselves bound to a strict ideology to celebrate German traits in their work. Artists who kept out of trouble during this period have sometimes been looked upon as quasi-collaborators with the fascist regime, and Orffs name has often been mentioned in the same sentence as the phrase Nazi composer.

Orff, however, was certainly aware of the necessity to keep out of trouble during this time, and it seems unlikely that he was a favorite of anyone in power, with the Nazi leadership better remembered for its fondness toward the operas of Richard Wagner. In 1934, when the Munich Bach Society came increasingly under the control of a Nazi group, the Kampfbund, Orff resigned his directors post. The Kampfbund was a government agency set up to weed out modernist or Jewish tendencies in all aspects of the arts in Germany.

Furthermore, around the time of Carmina Buranas premier, Orff came to the attention of Heinz Drewes, the newly appointed head of the music section of the ministry of propaganda for the German government. The functionary, according to Michael H. Kater in The Twisted Muse: Musicians and Their Music in the Third Reich, took an immediate dislike to Orff and, while never censuring outright any of the composers current or future works, successfully intimidated him, keeping him in abeyance until well into the war. Later, Orff would write Astutuli, completed in 1945. This allegorical tale slyly criticizing Hitler and the Third Reich was not staged, however, until 1953.

Though he is best remembered for Carmina Burana, Orff wrote several other works for the stage. Reflecting his interest in medieval musicthe chants of the Gregorian monks, for exampleOrffs compositions were repetitious in tone, and often described as primitive or skeletal. The same note might be played continuously, taking minimalist music to new extremes; a performer might be required to sing a C 200 times straight in other instances. Orchestras for Orffs compositions usually consisted of a heavy percussion section and banks of pianos, with their pianists instructed in the notation to smash the keys with vigor.

Wrote Work for Actress Daughter

As with Carmina Burana, Orff enjoyed the challenge of adapting works from unusual sources. In 1939s Der Mond (The Moon), which he based on a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, four men steal the moon, with predictably disastrous consequences. Die Kluge: The Story of the King and the Wise Woman, which had its first performance in 1943, told the story of a farmers daughter who gains the love of a despot by solving his riddles. Orff penned Die Bernauerin (The Tragedy of Agnes Bernauer) for his daughter Godela, an actress. It premiered in Stuttgart in 1947 and is still performed annually in the Bavarian city of Augsburg, where some of it is set. In this harsh tale, recounted by a chorus of male witches, the title character is an impoverished young woman from the lower classes who wins the heart of a duke and marries him. For this she is despised as a villain and then lynched.

Orff also adapted the works of others besides Monteverdi and Grimm. His version of Shakespeares A Midsummer Nights Dream, Ein Sommernachtstraum, debuted in 1939 but was revised by Orff a total of six times over the next four decades. Later in his career Orff took the works of the ancient Greek playwrightsupon which the very principles of opera were basedand adapted them for the modern German stage. To do so he used translations from the Greek undertaken in the late eighteenth century by the poet Hoelderlin, whom modern scholars have theorized probably suffered from schizophrenia. Hoelderlin, according to Gurewitsch in the 1995 Atlantic Monthly essay, mimicked the original Greek with breathtaking disdain for accepted German usage, creating in effect a language within a language. Orffs Greek adaptations include Antigonae (1949) Oedipus der Tyrann (1959), both by Sophocles.

Carmina Burana premiered to American audiences in the late 1950s, and won Orff greatacclaim. He continued to adapt the work of the Greek dramatists during the latter years of his career; Prometheus (after Aeschylus), debuted in Stuttgart in 1966. One of his last works was written for the 1972 Summer Olympic Games held in Munich. Orff was married more than once and enjoyed his last years on his home on the Lake Ammersee outside Munich. He died of cancer in 1982. A concert hall in Munich, part of a contemporary arts center and home of the Munich Philharmonic, is named in his honor.

Selected writings

Klage der Ariadne (after Monteverdi; title means Ariadnes Lament), Karlsruhe, 1925; rev., Gera, 1940.

Orpheus (after Monteverdi), Mannheim, 1925; rev., Munich, 1931; rev., Dresden, 1940.

Tanz der Sproeden (after Monteverdi; title means Dance of the Merciless Beauties), Karlsruhe, 1925; rev., Gera, 1940.

St. Luke Passion (after Bach), Munich, 1931.

Carmina Burana (cantiones profanae, medieval Lain lyrics), Frankfurt, 1937.

Der Mond (kleines Welttheater, after Brothers Grimm), Munich, 1939.

Catulli Carmina (luda scaenici; title means Songs of Catullus), Leipzig, 1943.

Die Kluge (title means The Clever Woman), Frankfurt, 1943.

Die Bernauerin: Bairische Stueck (title means The Tragedy of Agnes Bernauer), Stuttgart, 1947.

Antigonae (Sophocles, trans. Hoelderlin), Salzburg, 1949.

Astutuli: Bairsiche Komoedie, Munich, 1953.

Trionfo di Afrodite (concerto scenario; title means The Triumph of Aphrodite), Milan, 1953.

Trionfi (includes Carmina Burana, Catulli carmina, Trionfo di Afrodite; title means Triumphs), Salzburg, 1953.

Comoedia de Christi resurrectione (Osterspiel), Stuttgart, 1957.

Lamenti (includes Klage der Ariadne, Orpheus, Tanz der Sproeden ), Schwetzingen, 1958.

Oedipus der Tyrann (Sophocles, transl. Hoelderlin), Stuttgart, 1959.

Ludus de nat infante mirificus (Weihnachtsspiel), Stuttgart, 1960.

Ein Sommernachtstraum (after Shakespeare), 1939-62; final version, Stuttgart, 1964.

Prometheus (after Aeschylus), Stuttgart, 1966.

De temporum fine comoedia (Buehnenspiel; title means Play of the End of Time), Salzburg, 1973.

Selected discography

Monteverdi Realisation: Lamento dArianna, Deutsche Grammophon.

Carmina Burana: Scenic Cantata (with the Bavarian Radio Chorus and Orchestra; title means Songs of Beuren), Deutsche Grammophon.

Entrata (with the Viennese State Opera Orchestra), Westminster.

Der Mond: A Narration with Four Episodes (title means The Moon), Columbia.

Die Kluge: The Story of the King and the Wise Woman, Angel.

Catulli Carmina: Ludi Scaenici, Deutsche Grammophon.

Die Bernauerin: Ein Bairisches Stueck, Deutsche Grammophon.

Antigonae: Setting of Hoelderlins Vision of Sophocles Tragedy, Deutsche Grammophon.

Trionfo di Afrodite: Concerto Scenico, Deutsche Grammophon.

Music for Children, Volumes 1 & 2, Columbia, Volumes 5 & 6, Mundi 2-Harmo.



Kater, Michael H., The Twisted Muse: Musicians and Their Music in the Third Reich, Oxford University Press, 1997.

Liess, Andreas, Carl Orff, translated by Adelheid and Herbert Parkin, Calder and Boyars, 1966.

The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Stanley Sadie (Volume 13: Muwashsha-Ory), Macmillan, 1980.


Atlantic Monthly, August 1995, pp. 90-93.

New York Times, March 31, 1982, p. B5.

Carol Brennan

Orff, Carl

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Carl Orff

Known primarily for a single work, the rhythmically intense set of choral songs titled Carmina Burana, German composer Carl Orff (1895–1982) developed a unique conception of musical structure and performance that had many manifestations beyond that single work. One lasting product of Orff's original thinking was not a piece of music but the internationally popular system of music education called Orff Schulwerk.

The crossover success of Carmina Burana, especially its monumental "O Fortuna" opening chorus, has somewhat obscured the fact that Orff was, in several respects, a composer ahead of his time. Carmina Burana was based on a set of medieval poems, and Orff was one of the first composers to look to the distant past of European music and culture for inspiration. Orff pioneered a stripped-down musical language that anticipated the minimalist style of the last decades of the twentieth century, and he believed in merging music with other arts to create a total performance experience much like what would later become common in the music video. Orff anticipated a strong interest among classical musicians regarding non-Western drums and percussion instruments, and his works often had a ritual feel that would have been more at home in the 1960s and 1970s than in Orff's troubled homeland of Germany at mid-century. Carmina Burana, one of the most popular concert works of the twentieth century, also seems one of its most unusual when it is understood in relation to the rest of Orff's output.

Grew Up in Military Family

Born July 10, 1895, Orff grew up in Munich, Germany, a city he made his home for almost his entire life. His father and grandfather were both military officers. Very early in life Orff showed signs of musical ability and creativity of an unusual kind. When he was three, he wrote a poem that he planned to read at his grandfather's birthday party. But then he forgot the poem. "I could have wept," he later wrote (as quoted by Matthew Gurewitsch in the Atlantic Monthly), "but to cry in front of grandfather—that I did not want to do. So I grabbed his trouser legs and shook them with all my might, like a plum tree. Everybody laughed, but my grandfather did not laugh. He bent down to me and said, 'Thank you. I understand very well what you wanted to say.'" Orff sometimes liked to bang on the keys of the family piano with a mallet—annoying, perhaps, but a foretaste of what was to come.

Orff started studying the piano at age five and also took organ and cello lessons. But he was always unmotivated as a performance student, and he found creating original music much more interesting. Orff wrote and staged puppet shows for his family, devising original music for piano, violin, zither, and glockenspiel to go with them. He had a short story published in a children's magazine in 1905 and started to write a book about nature. In his spare time he enjoyed collecting insects. By the time he was a teenager, Orff was writing songs, although he had never studied harmony or composition; his mother helped him set down his first works in musical notation. He wrote the texts himself, and he learned the art of composing not from a teacher but by studying the great works of classical music on his own.

When Orff was 16, some of his music was published; many of his youthful works were songs, often in the settings of texts by famous German poets. They fell into the patterns laid down by Richard Strauss and other leading German composers of the day, but they contained hints of Orff's distinctive language. In 1912 Orff wrote a large choral work, Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, based on a passage in a philosophical work by Friedrich Nietzsche), and an opera, Gisei, das Opfer (Gisei: The Sacrifice), the following year. He heard the Impressionist music of French composer Claude Debussy and began to cultivate the use of unusual combinations of instruments in his orchestration.

Another major formative experience for Orff came in 1915, when he got a job as rehearsal leader and conductor at the Munich Kammerspiele (Chamber Players) theater. At the time, plays were often presented with live musical accompaniment, much like a later film soundtrack. The experience cemented Orff's view of music as a component of a total artistic experience, and he began working on a quasioperatic adaptation of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The work was not finished until 1939, but parts of Orff's basic creative outlook were forged early in his career. Drafted into the German army in 1917 at the height of World War I, Orff was unhappy despite his family background. He was wounded, suffered from stress, and was finally declared unfit for duty. Orff spent the last year of the war in theatrical jobs in the German cities of Mannheim and Darmstadt, and then returned to Munich.

Studied Music of Renaissance and Baroque Eras

The final component of Orff's mature style was added to his creative arsenal when he began studying musicology under the guidance of two of Germany's leading scholars, Heinrich Kaminski and Curt Sachs. His primary areas of interest were music of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—rare specialties at the time—and, to a lesser extent, ethnomusicology. In the latter field, he was fascinated by the array of percussion instruments from around the world that he encountered after meeting Sachs; he attended African dance performances and experimented with the drums that were used to accompany them.

In the mid-1920s Orff began to formulate a concept he called elementare Musik, or elemental music, which was based on the unity of the arts symbolized by the ancient Greek Muses (who gave music its English name) and involved tone, dance, poetry, image, design, and theatrical gesture. Like many other composers of the time he was influenced by the Russian-French emigré Igor Stravinsky. But while others followed the cool, balanced "neoclassic" works of Stravinsky, it was works like the composer's Les noces (The Wedding), a pounding, quasi-folkloric evocation of prehistoric wedding rites, that appealed to Orff. He also began adapting musical works of earlier eras for contemporary theatrical presentation, including Claudio Monteverdi's opera Orfeo (1607). Orff's German version, Orpheus, was staged in 1925 in Mannheim, Germany, under Orff's direction, using some of the instruments that had been used in the original 1607 performance. The passionately declaimed opera of Monteverdi's era was almost unknown in the 1920s, however, and Orff's production met with reactions ranging from incomprehension to ridicule.

Orff also involved himself in educational efforts. With dancer Dorothee Günther he formed the Güntherschule in Munich in 1924. This was a progressive dance and gymnastics school that had the goal of involving children in music-making as well as movement. Orff created new materials for the school, including adaptations of German folk songs (later adaptations of his method in other countries would stress the importance of using local roots music), percussion exercises, and eventually a battery of simple percussion instruments. Orff codified his materials into a large manual called the Orff-Schulwerk (Orff Educational Method), which was published in stages between 1932 and 1935. Orff music education caught on in other countries, including the United States; one estimate in the 1990s put the number of U.S. teachers trained in the method at five thousand.

Orff continued to stage innovative reimaginings of works from the earlier eras of classical music, and his new productions gained greater popularity than did his Monteverdi experiments. He presented a St. Luke Passion, thought erroneously at the time to be by Johann Sebastian Bach, in an innovative staged version in the Munich area; the original work had dramatic dialogue but would normally have been sung in concert, not staged. Orff turned it into what would now be called a multimedia production, setting the story of Christ's life among south German peasants and illustrating it with projections of centuries-old woodcuts from the area. The Lukaspassion caught on in Bavaria and is now staged annually in April as a traditional event.

Set Latin Love Poems

Around 1930 Orff became fascinated by love poetry in the Latin language, some of which had erotic subject matter. He wrote two sets of unaccompanied choral songs to texts by the ancient Roman poet Catullus, the Catulli Carmina (Songs of Catullus), in 1930 and 1931. This music prepared the way for Orff's masterpiece, the Carmina Burana of 1937. This work was based on medieval Latin poems contained in the so-called Benediktbeuern manuscript, housed in a Bavarian monastery. The title Carmina Burana (Songs of Beuren) refers to the manuscript, and though the texts were originally written by religious students, they have a strongly secular outlook, celebrating pleasures of the flesh, lamenting the bad luck that befalls human beings, and sometimes poking fun at religion. Orff brought together all the strands of his musical education, opening the work with an imposing chorus addressing Fortuna, the Roman goddess of luck, and delivering a work filled with arresting music, kinetic rhythms, and effective arrangements for both adult and children's choruses. Like the St. Luke Passion, it was accompanied at its premiere by slide-projected images; Orff called them imagines magicae, or magic images.

The work has been a resounding worldwide success ever since its premiere, and even seven decades later, lawyers for Orff's estate are kept busy fighting the unauthorized uses of the music, which is still under copyright. At the time, however, it was harshly condemned by Nazi-oriented critic Herbert Gerigk. Orff, who remained in Germany during the Nazi era while many other composers departed, has sometimes been criticized as a collaborator with fascism. He never joined the Nazi party, and his music found little official favor within Hitler's cultural apparatus. His detractors point to his 1939 music for A Midsummer Night's Dream; the most famous music for the play had been written by Felix Mendelssohn, a German composer of Jewish background, and Orff's work was seen as an attempt to provide a purely Aryan replacement for the Mendelssohn score.

Orff regarded Carmina Burana as the real beginning of his career, and ordered his publisher to destroy all his previous works (an instruction that fortunately was disregarded). After World War II he continued to explore ancient texts and their possibilities for generating a new musical and ritual language. Carmina Burana, another set of Catulli Carmina songs (1941–43), and a like-minded work called Trionfo di Afrodite (The Triumph of Aphrodite), were assembled by Orff into a massive three-part theatrical piece called Trionfi in the early 1950s. After Carmina Burana he wrote two theater pieces based on German fairy tales: Der Mond (The Moon, 1938) and Die Kluge: Die Geschichte von dem König und der klugen Frau (The Clever Girl: The Story of the King and the Clever Girl, 1942). The latter opera was based on the well-known folk tale of a peasant girl who marries a king after solving a series of riddles.

Most of Orff's later works—Antigonae (1949), Oedipus der Tyrann (Oedipus the King, 1958), Prometheus desmotes (1967), and De temporum fine comoedia (A Play for the End of Time, 1971)—were based on texts or topics from antiquity. They extend the language of Carmina Burana in interesting ways, but they are expensive to stage and are not operas in the conventional sense. They are occasionally performed, most often in Germany. Orff's major contributions remain the much-performed Carmina Burana and the Orff-Schulwerk system. Orff died in Munich on March 29, 1982.


Contemporary Musicians, vol. 21, Gale, 1998.

Liess, Andreas, Carl Orff, translated by Adelheid and Herbert Parkin, Calder and Boyars, 1966.

Sadie, Stanley, ed., The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd ed., Macmillan, 2001.


Atlantic Monthly, August 1995.

Dance Magazine, September 1994.


"Biography," http://www.orff.de (February 8, 2006).

Orff, Carl

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Orff, Carl

Orff, Carl, eminent German composer and music educator; b. Munich, July 10, 1895; d. there, March 29, 1982. He began piano lessons in his fifth year, and later studied at the Munich Academy of Music (1912–14) and with Helmut Zilcher (1914). From 1915 to 1917 he conducted at the Munich Kammerspiele. In 1917 he entered military service and was sent to the Eastern front during the final stages of World War I. After the War, he conducted at the Mannheim National Theater and at the Darmstadt Court Theater in 1918. Orff completed his studies with Heinrich Kaminski in 1920–21. His interest in education led him to found, with Dorothee Günther, the Günther School in Munich in 1924 for the training of children in gymnastics, rhythm, music, and dance. His influence as a music educator was widespread. With Gunild Keetman, he publ. the Orff-Schulwerk Elementare Musikübung (1931–34; rev. as Musik für Kinder, 1950–54). In 1932–33 Orff served as conductor of the Munich Bach Soc. On June 8, 1937, his cantiones profanae, Carmina Burana, was premiered in Frankfurt am Main. Scored for Soprano, Tenor, Baritone, Chorus, Children’s Chorus, and Orch., and set to texts in Latin and German from 13thcentury Goliard poems in the Benediktbeuren monastery in Bavaria, it became Orff’s most celebrated work. From 1950 to 1960 he taught at the Munich Staatliche Hochschule für Musik. In 1956 he was made a member of the order Pour le mérite. He received honorary doctorates from the Univ. of Tübingen in 1959 and the Univ. of Munich in 1972. In 1972 he was awarded the Grand Cross for Distinguished Service of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. Orff spent his last years preparing Carl Orff und sein Werk (8 vols., Tutzing, 1975–83). In his works after 1936, he attempted to develop what he described as dramatic music along the lines of total theater. While the form was freer, dramatic action was lacking and settings were static. However, the utilization of elementary rhythms and folk melodies made his works more agreeable in constituting works of total art.


dramatic:Gisei, music drama (1913); Ein Sommernachtstraum, Schauspiel after Shakespeare (1917; 2nd version, 1928; 3rd version, Frankfurt am Main, Oct. 14, 1939; 4thversion, 1943; 5th version, Darmstadt, Oct. 30, 1952; 6th version, Stuttgart, March 12, 1963); Orpheus, new version of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo (1924; Mannheim, April 17, 1925; 2nd version, Munich, Oct. 13, 1929; 3rd version, 1939; Dresden, Oct. 4, 1940); Klage der Ariadne, new version of Monteverdi’s Lamento d’Arianna (1925; rev. version, Gera, Nov. 30, 1940); Tanz der Spröden, new version of madrigals from Monteverdi’s Ballo del e Ingrate (Karlsruhe, Dec. 28, 1925; rev. version, Gera, Nov. 30, 1940); 3 preceding works first perf. as the trittico teatrale Lamenti (Schwetzingen, May 15, 1958); Carmina Burana, can-tiones profanae for Soprano, Tenor, Baritone, Chorus, Children’s Chorus, and Orch. (1936; Frankfurt am Main, June 8, 1937; with Catulli Carmina and Trionfo di Afrodite as the trittico teatrale Trionfi, Milan, Feb. 14, 1953); Der Mond (1937–38; Munich, Feb. 5, 1939; rev. 1945; Munich, Nov. 26, 1950); Die Kluge (1941–42; Frankfurt am Main, Feb. 20, 1943); Catulli Carmina, ludi scaenici (Leipzig, Nov. 6, 1943; with Carmina Burana and Trionfo di Afrodite as the trittico teatrale Trionfi, Milan, Feb. 14, 1953); Die Bernauerin (1944–45; Stuttgart, June 15, 1947); Astutuli (1945–46; Munich, Oct. 20, 1953); Antigonae, Trauerspiel after Sophocles and Hölderlin (1947–48; Salzburg, Aug. 9, 1949); Die Weihnachtsgeschichte (Bavarian Radio, Munich, Dec. 24, 1948); Trionfo di Afrodite, concerto scenico (1950–51; with Carmina Burana and Catulli Carmina as the trittico teatrale Trionfi, Milan, Feb. 14, 1953); Comoedia de Christi Resur-rectione, Easter play (1955; Bavarian Radio, Munich, March 31, 1956; stage perf., Stuttgart, April 21, 1957); Oedipus der Tyrann, Trauerspiel after Sophocles and Hölderlin (1957–58; Stuttgart, Dec. 11, 1959); Ludus de nato Infante mirificus, Christmas play (Stuttgart, Dec. 11, 1960); Prometheus (1963–67; Stuttgart, March 24, 1968). orch.:Tanzende Faune (1914; Munich, Dec. 6, 1995); Kleines Konzert for Wind Ensemble, after 16th century lute music (1927; Munich, Dec. 11, 1928; rev. 1975; also for Orch., Munich, Dec. 15, 1937); Entrata, after William Byrd (1928; 2ndversion, Frankfurt am Main, Aug. 24, 1940; 3rd version, Frankfurt am Main, Feb. 28, 1941). chamber: Quartet Movement (c. 1914; Altötting, July 5, 1989); piano pieces; violin works. vocal:Zarasthustra for Baritone, 3 Men’s Choruses, and Orch., after Nietzsche (1911–12); Frühe Lieder for Voice and Piano (1911; 1919–21); Des Turmes Auferstehung for 2 Basses and Orch., after Werfel (1921; 2nd version for 2 Men’s Choruses and Orch., Munich, Dec. 6, 1995); Cantata for Chorus, Piano, and Percussion, after Werfel (1930; rev. 1968); Cantata for Chorus, Piano, and Percussion, after Brecht (1930; rev. 1973); Concento di voci (1, Sirmio for Chorus, 1930; 2, Laudes creaturarum for Chorus, 1954; Solingen, July 21, 1957; 3, Sunt lacrimae rerum for Men’s Chorus, 1956; Solingen, July 21, 1957); Dithyrambi for Chorus and Instruments, after Schiller (1, Die Sänger der Vorwelt, 1955; Stuttgart, Aug. 3, 1956; 2, Nanie und Dithyrambe, Bremen, Dec. 4, 1956; both rev. 1981; Munich, Nov. 22, 1987); Stücke for Speaking Chorus and Instruments (1969); Rota for Chorus and Instruments, after Sumer is icumen in (Munich, Aug. 26, 1972); (3) Sprechstücke for Speaker, Speaking Chorus, and Percussion (1976).


W. Trittenhoff, O .-Schulwerk: Einführung (Mainz, 1930); A. Liess, C. O.: Idee und Werk (Zürich, 1955; 2nd ed., rev., 1977; Eng. tr., 1966); K. Ruppel, G. Sellner, and W. Thomas, C. O., ein Bericht in Wort und Bild (Mainz, 1955; 2nd ed., rev., 1960; Eng. tr., 1960); I. Kiekert, Die musikalische Form in den Werken C. O.s (Regensburg, 1957); M. Devreese-Papgnies, Sur les traces du Schulwerk de C. O.: Méthodologie pour l’usage des instruments d’orchestre scolaire (Brussels, 1968); F. Willnauer, ed., Prometheus: Mythos, Drama, Musik: Beiträge zu C. O.s Musikdrama nach Aischylos (Tübingen, 1968); U. Klement, Das Musiktheater C. O.s: Untersuchungen zu einem bürgerlichen Kunstwerk (diss., Univ. of Leipzig, 1969); G. Keetman, Elementaria: Erster Umgang mit dem O.Schulwerk (Stuttgart, 1970; Eng. tr., 1974); R. Münster, ed., C. O.: Das Bühnenwerk (Munich, 1970); H. Wolfgart, ed., Das O.Schulwerk im Dienste der Erziehung und Therapie behinderter Kinder (Berlin, 1971); W Thomas, C. O.: De temporum fine comoedia...eine Interpretation (Tutzing, 1973); G. Orff, The O. Music Therapy (London, 1980); U. Klement, Das Musiktheater C. O.s (Leipzig, 1982); H. Leuchtmann, C. O.: Ein Gedenkbuch (Tutzing, 1985); G. Orff-Büchtemann, Mein Vater und ich: Erinnerungen an C. O. (Munich, 1992); A. Fassone, C. O. (Lucca, 1994); W. Thomas, O.s Märchenstücke: Der Mond, Die Kluge (Mainz, 1994); idem, Dem unbekannten Gott: Ein nicht ausgeführtes Chorwerk von C.O. (Mainz, 1997).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

Orff, Carl

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Orff, Carl (b Munich, 1895; d Munich, 1982). Ger. composer, teacher, and conductor. Studied Munich Acad., leaving to join army 1914. Worked in opera houses and returned to Munich 1920 for further study with Kaminsky. In 1924 founded the Günther School, Munich, where his life-long interest in children's mus. education began. About this time he made edns. of several operas by Monteverdi, incl. L'incoronazione di Poppea, comp. cantatas and an Entrata for orch. ‘after William Byrd’. In 1937, when his Carmina Burana was f.p., he disowned all his previous works, though some were later rev. and restored. From then he comp. exclusively for the stage, though not conventionally (Carmina Burana, for example, is usually given in a concert version). His mature style is dry and staccato, with much use of perc. and the content of the mus. based on rhythmic patterns and their variations. Harmony is reduced to basic elements, and melody is nearer to rhythmic speech than to the ‘expressive’ ideal of other composers. Prin. works:STAGE: Trionfi—Trittico Teatrale (Triumphs—theatrical triptych): 1. Carmina Burana (Songs of Beuren), cantiones profanae (1935–6), 2. Catulli Carmina (Songs of Catullus), ludi scaenici (1943), 3. Trionfo di Afrodite (Triumph of Aphrodite), concerto scenico (1950–1). Der Mond (The Moon), ein kleines Welttheater (1937–8, rev. 1945); Antigonae (1940–9); Die Kluge (The Clever Girl) (1941–2); Die Bernauerin (1944–5); Astutuli (1945–6); Comoedia de Christi Resurrectione, an Easter play (1955); Oedipus der Tyrann (1957–8); Ludus de Nato Infante Mirificus, a Christmas play (1960); Ein Sommernachtstraum (A Midsummer Night's Dream), incidental mus. for Shakespeare (1939, rev. 1944, 1952, 1964); Prometheus (1963–7); De temporum fine comoedia (1969–71).CHORUS & ORCH.: Die Sänger der Vorwelt (The Singer of Former Times) (1955); Nänie und Dithyrambe (1956); Rota (1972).EDUCATIONAL: Das Schulwerk, Musik für Kinder, 5 vols. (1930–5, rev. 1950–4).ARRANGEMENTS: Monteverdi: L'incoronazione di Poppea (1925, rev. 1940); Lamenti (triple bill, prod. Schwetzingen 1958, of Lamento d'Arianna, 1925, rev. 1940, La Favola d'Orfeo, 1925, rev. 1931, 1940, Il ballo delle ingrate, 1925, rev. 1940).

Orff, Carl

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Orff, Carl (1895–1982) German composer. He deliberately used ‘primitive’ rhythms in his best-known works, Carmina Burana (1937) and Catulli Carmina (1943), and the opera Trionfo di Afrodite (1953).

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