Carl Orff (German: [ˈɔɐ̯f]; 10 July 1895 – 29 March 1982) was a German composer, best known for his cantata Carmina Burana (1937). In addition to his career as a composer, Orff developed an influential approach toward music education for children.
Carl Orff, at the Fidula workshop 1956
10 July 1895
|Died||29 March 1982 (aged 86)|
|List of compositions|
In 1911, at age 16, some of Orff's music was published. Many of his youthful works were songs, often settings of German poetry. They fell into the style of Richard Strauss and other German composers of the day, but with hints of what would become Orff's distinctive musical language.
In 1911/12, Orff wrote Zarathustra, Op. 14, an unfinished large work for baritone voice, three male choruses and orchestra, based on a passage from Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophical novel Also sprach Zarathustra. The following year, he composed an opera, Gisei, das Opfer (Gisei, the Sacrifice). Influenced by the French Impressionist composer Claude Debussy, he began to use colorful, unusual combinations of instruments in his orchestration.
Moser's Musik-Lexikon states that Orff studied at the Munich Academy of Music until 1914. He then served in the German Army during World War I, when he was severely injured and nearly killed when a trench caved in. Afterwards, he held various positions at opera houses in Mannheim and Darmstadt, later returning to Munich to pursue his music studies.
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, and involved tone, dance, poetry, image, design, and theatrical gesture. Like many other composers of the time, he was influenced by the Russian-French émigré Igor Stravinsky. But while others followed the cool, balanced neoclassic works of Stravinsky, it was works such as 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 L'Orfeo (1607). Orff's German version, Orpheus, was staged under his direction in 1925 in Mannheim, 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.
In 1924 Dorothee Günther and Orff founded the Günther School for gymnastics, music, and dance in Munich. Orff was there as the head of a department from 1925 until the end of his life, and he worked with musical beginners. There he developed his theories of music education, having constant contact with children. In 1930, Orff published a manual titled Schulwerk, in which he shares his method of conducting. Before writing Carmina Burana, he also edited 17th-century operas. However, these various activities brought him very little money.
Orff's relationship with German national-socialism and the Nazi Party has been a matter of considerable debate and analysis. His Carmina Burana was hugely popular in Nazi Germany after its premiere in Frankfurt in 1937. Given Orff's previous lack of commercial success, the monetary factor of Carmina Burana's acclaim was significant to him. But the composition, with its unfamiliar rhythms, was also denounced with racist taunts. He was one of the few German composers under the Nazi regime who responded to the official call to write new incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream after the music of Felix Mendelssohn had been banned. Defenders of Orff note that he had already composed music for this play as early as 1917 and 1927, long before this was a favor for the Nazi regime.
Orff was a friend of Kurt Huber, one of the founders of the resistance movement Weiße Rose (the White Rose), who was condemned to death by the Volksgerichtshof and executed by the Nazis in 1943. Orff by happenstance called at Huber's house on the day after his arrest. Huber's distraught wife, Clara, begged Orff to use his influence to help her husband, but he declined her request. If his friendship with Huber was ever discovered, he told her, he would be "ruined". On 19 January 1946 Orff wrote a letter to the deceased Huber. Later that month, he met with Clara Huber, who asked him to contribute to a memorial volume for her husband. Orff's letter was published in that collection the following year. In it, Orff implored him for forgiveness.
According to Canadian historian Michael H. Kater, during Orff's denazification process in Bad Homburg, Orff claimed that he had helped establish the White Rose resistance movement in Germany. There was no evidence for this other than his own word, and other sources dispute his claim. Kater also made a particularly strong case in his earlier writings that Orff collaborated with Nazi German authorities.
However, in Orff's denazification file, discovered by Viennese historian Oliver Rathkolb in 1999, no remark on the White Rose is recorded; and in Composers of the Nazi Era: Eight Portraits (2000) Kater recanted his earlier accusations to some extent.
In any case, Orff's assertion that he had been anti-Nazi during the war was accepted by the American denazification authorities, who changed his previous category of "gray unacceptable" to "gray acceptable", enabling him to continue to compose for public presentation, and to enjoy the royalties that the popularity of Carmina Burana had earned for him.
Most of Orff's later works – Antigonae (1949), Oedipus der Tyrann (Oedipus the Tyrant, 1958), Prometheus (1968), and De temporum fine comoedia (Play on the End of Times, 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 (on Orff's own admission) are not operas in the conventional sense. Live performances of them have been few, even in Germany.
Orff was a Roman Catholic. He was married four times: to Alice Solscher (m. 1920, div. 1925), Gertrud Willert (m. 1939, div. 1953), Luise Rinser (m. 1954, div. 1959) and Liselotte Schmitz (m. 1960). His only child Godela (1921–2013) was from his first marriage. She has described her relationship with her father as having been difficult at times. "He had his life and that was that," she tells Tony Palmer in the documentary O Fortuna.
Orff died of cancer in Munich in 1982 at the age of 86. He had lived through four epochs: the German Empire, the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany and the post World War II West German Bundesrepublik. Orff was buried in the Baroque church of the beer-brewing Benedictine priory of Andechs, south of Munich. His tombstone bears his name, his dates of birth and death, and the Latin inscription Summus Finis (the Ultimate End), which is taken from the end of De temporum fine comoedia.
Orff is best known for Carmina Burana (1936), a "scenic cantata". It is the first part of a trilogy that also includes Catulli Carmina and Trionfo di Afrodite. Carmina Burana reflected his interest in medieval German poetry. The trilogy as a whole is called Trionfi, or "Triumphs". The composer described it as the celebration of the triumph of the human spirit through sexual and holistic balance. The work was based on thirteenth-century poetry found in a manuscript dubbed the Codex latinus monacensis found in the Benedictine monastery of Benediktbeuern in 1803 and written by the Goliards; this collection is also known as Carmina Burana. While "modern" in some of his compositional techniques, Orff was able to capture the spirit of the medieval period in this trilogy, with infectious rhythms and simple harmonies. The medieval poems, written in Latin and an early form of German, are often racy, but without descending into smut. "Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi", commonly known as "O Fortuna", from Carmina Burana, is often used to denote primal forces, for example in the Oliver Stone film The Doors. The work's association with fascism also led Pier Paolo Pasolini to use the movement "Veris leta facies" to accompany the concluding scenes of torture and murder in his final film Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom.
With the success of Carmina Burana, Orff disowned all of his previous works except for Catulli Carmina and the Entrata (an orchestration of "The Bells" by William Byrd (1539–1623)), which were rewritten until acceptable by Orff. Later on, however, many of these earlier works were released (some even with Orff's approval). As an historical aside, Carmina Burana is probably the most famous piece of music composed and premiered in Nazi Germany. Carmina Burana was in fact so popular that Orff received a commission in Frankfurt to compose incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream, which was supposed to replace the banned music by Mendelssohn. After several performances of this music, he claimed not to be satisfied with it, and reworked it into the final version that was first performed in 1964.
Orff was reluctant to term any of his works simply operas in the traditional sense. For example, he referred to his works Der Mond (The Moon, 1939) and Die Kluge (The Wise Woman, 1943) as Märchenopern ("fairytale operas"). Both compositions feature the same "timeless" sound, called timeless because they do not employ any of the musical techniques of the period in which they were composed, with the intent that they be difficult to define as belonging to a particular era. Their melodies, rhythms, and accompanying text form a unique union of words and music.
About his Antigonae (1949), Orff said specifically that it was not an opera but rather a Vertonung, a "musical setting", of the ancient tragedy. The text is a German translation, by Friedrich Hölderlin, of the Sophocles play of the same name. The orchestration relies heavily on the percussion section and is otherwise fairly simple. It has been labelled by some as minimalistic, a term which is most pertinent in terms of the melodic line. The story of Antigone has a haunting similarity to the history of Sophie Scholl, heroine of the White Rose resistance movement, and Orff may have been memorializing her in his opera.
Orff's last work, De temporum fine comoedia (Play on the End of Times), had its premiere at the Salzburg Festival on August 20, 1973, and was performed by Herbert von Karajan and the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne and Chorus. In this highly personal work, Orff presented a mystery play, sung in Greek, German, and Latin, in which he summarized his view of the end of time.
In pedagogical circles he is probably best remembered for his Schulwerk ("School Work"). Originally a set of pieces composed and published for the Güntherschule (which had students ranging from 12 to 22), this title was also used for his books based on radio broadcasts in Bavaria in 1949. These pieces are collectively called Musik für Kinder (Music for Children), and also use the term Schulwerk, and were written in collaboration with his former pupil, composer and educator Gunild Keetman, who actually wrote most of the settings and arrangements in the "Musik für Kinder" ("Music for Children") volumes.
The Music for Children volumes were not designed to be performance pieces for the average child. Many of the parts are challenging for teachers to play. They were designed as examples of pieces that show the use of ostinati, bordun, and appropriate texts for children. Teachers using the volumes are encouraged to simplify the pieces, to write original texts for the pieces and to modify the instrumentation to adapt to the teacher's classroom situation.
Orff's ideas were developed, together with Gunild Keetman, into a very innovative approach to music education for children, known as the "Orff Schulwerk". The music is elemental and combines movement, singing, playing, and improvisation.
Carl Orff, the German composer and music educator best known for his 1937 work Carmina Burana, died of cancer Monday night in a Munich, West Germany, clinic. He was 86 years old.
Andechs is a municipality in the district of Starnberg in Bavaria in Germany. It is renowned in Germany and beyond for Andechs Abbey, a Benedictine monastery that has brewed beer since 1455. The monastery brewery offers tours to visitors.
The 20th-century German composer Carl Orff is buried in the chapel of Andechs Abbey.Antigonae
Antigonae (Antigone), written by Carl Orff, was first presented on 9 August 1949 under the direction of Ferenc Fricsay in the Felsenreitschule, Salzburg, Austria, as part of the Salzburg Festival. Antigonae is in Orff's words a "musical setting" for the Greek tragedy of the same name by Sophocles. However, it functions as an opera.
Orff used the German translation of Sophocles' play by Friedrich Hölderlin. The original play was written in 442 BC, and the German translation copies faithfully the mood and movement of Greek tragedy.Carl Orff's O Fortuna in popular culture
In 1935–36, the 13th-century poem "O Fortuna" was set to music by the German composer Carl Orff for his twenty-five-movement cantata Carmina Burana. The composition appears in numerous films and television commercials and has become a staple in popular culture, setting the mood for dramatic or cataclysmic situations. For instance, it is used to portray the torment of Jim Morrison's drug addiction in the film The Doors. In 1983, Doors' keyboardist Ray Manzarek released his third solo album, Carmina Burana, which is an interpretation of the piece in a contemporary framework.
"O Fortuna" has been called "the most overused piece of music in film history", and Harper's Magazine columnist Scott Horton has commented that "Orff’s setting may have been spoiled by its popularization" and its use "in movies and commercials often as a jingle, detached in any meaningful way from its powerful message." Its contemporary usage is often joking or satirical in nature, owing to its oversaturation in popular culture.Carmina Burana (Orff)
Carmina Burana is a scenic cantata composed in 1935 and 1936 by Carl Orff, based on 24 poems from the medieval collection Carmina Burana. Its full Latin title is Carmina Burana: Cantiones profanae cantoribus et choris cantandae comitantibus instrumentis atque imaginibus magicis ("Songs of Beuern: Secular songs for singers and choruses to be sung together with instruments and magical images"). It was first performed in Frankfurt on 8 June 1937. It is part of Trionfi, a musical triptych that includes Catulli Carmina and Trionfo di Afrodite. The first and last movements of the piece are called "Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi" ("Fortune, Empress of the World") and start with the very well known "O Fortuna".Catulli Carmina
Catulli Carmina (Songs of Catullus) is a cantata by Carl Orff dating from 1940–1943. He described it as ludi scaenici (scenic plays). The work mostly sets poems of the Latin poet Catullus to music, with some text by the composer. Catulli Carmina is part of Trionfi, the musical triptych that also includes the Carmina Burana and Trionfo di Afrodite. It is scored for a full mixed choir, soprano and tenor soloists, and an entirely percussive orchestra – possibly inspired by Stravinsky's Les noces – consisting of four pianos, timpani, bass drum, 3 tambourines, triangle, castanets, maracas, suspended and crash cymbals, antique cymbal (without specified pitch), tam-tam, lithophone, metallophone, 2 glockenspiels, wood block, xylophone, and tenor xylophone.De temporum fine comoedia
De temporum fine comoedia (Latin for A Play on the End of Time) is an opera or musical play by 20th-century German composer Carl Orff. It was his last work and took ten years to compose (1962 to 1972, revised in 1979). Its premiere was at the Salzburg Music Festival on 20 August 1973 by Herbert von Karajan, the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra and RIAS Kammerchor, staged by August Everding. In this highly personal work, Orff presented a mystery play in which he summarized his view of the end of time, sung in Ancient Greek, Latin, and German (translation by Wolfgang Schadewaldt).Der Mond
Der Mond (The Moon) is an opera in one act by Carl Orff based on a Grimm's fairy tale) with a libretto by the composer. It was first performed on 5 February 1939 by the Bavarian State Opera in Munich under the direction of Clemens Krauss. The composer describes it not as an opera but as Ein kleines Welttheater ("A little world theatre"); the performance lasts for about one hour and is often paired with Orff's Die Kluge.Die Kluge
Die Kluge. Die Geschichte von dem König und der klugen Frau (The Wise [Girl]. The Story of the King and the Wise Woman) is an opera in 12 scenes written by Carl Orff. It premiered in Frankfurt, Germany, on 20 February 1943. Orff referred to this opera as a Märchenoper (fairy tale opera). The composer also wrote the libretto, based on Die Kluge Bauerntochter (The Peasant's Wise Daughter) from the Grimm's Fairy Tales. A performance lasts for about 90 minutes and is often paired with Orff's Der Mond.Ecce gratum
"Ecce gratum" (English: "Behold, the pleasant") is a medieval Latin Goliardic poem written early in the 13th century, part of the collection known as the Carmina Burana. It was set to music in 1935/36 by German composer Carl Orff as part of his Carmina Burana which premiered at Frankfurt Opera on 8 June 1937. Within Orff's Carmina Burana, this song is the 5th movement in section 1, Primo vere (In Spring).Gassenhauer
Gassenhauer nach Hans Neusiedler (1536), commonly known as Gassenhauer (pronounced [ˈɡasn̩ˌhaʊ̯ɐ]), is a short piece from Carl Orff's Schulwerk. As the full title indicates, it is either an arrangement of, or inspired by, a much older work by the lutenist Hans Neusidler from 1536. It (along with several other pieces) is in fact credited to Orff's longtime collaborator, Gunild Keetman, on at least one recent release of the Schulwerk. As with many other pieces from the Schulwerk, it has been used multiple times on television, radio, music, and in films, including the films Badlands (1973), True Romance (1993) (in a re-worked version by Hans Zimmer), Ratcatcher (1999), Finding Forrester (2000), Monster (2003), and, most recently, Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story (2009) and The Simpsons′ 22nd-season episode "The Scorpion's Tale" (2011). The piece was used as the theme music for an afternoon radio program also titled Gassenhauer on the classical music station WCLV in Cleveland, Ohio, in the 1970s. The piece also has clear influences on the 1940s golden-age Argentine Tango vals Caballero de la luna by instrumentalist Enrique RodríguezGasteig
Gasteig is a cultural center in Munich, opened in 1985, which hosts the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. The Richard Strauss Conservatory, the Volkshochschule, and the municipal library are all located in the Gasteig. Most of the events of the Filmfest München, and many of the events of the Munich Biennale take place here.In taberna quando sumus
"In taberna quando sumus" (English: "When we are in the tavern") is a medieval Latin Goliardic poem written early in the 13th century, part of the collection known as the Carmina Burana. It was set to music in 1935/36 by German composer Carl Orff as part of his Carmina Burana which premiered at Frankfurt Opera on 8 June 1937. Within Orff's Carmina Burana, this drinking song is the 14th movement in section 2, called In Taberna.Metallophone
A metallophone is any musical instrument consisting of tuned metal bars which are struck to make sound, usually with a mallet.
Metallophones have been used in music in Asia for thousands of years. There are several different types used in Balinese and Javanese gamelan ensembles, including the gendér, gangsa and saron. These instruments have a single row of bars, tuned to the distinctive pelog or slendro scales, or a subset of them. The Western glockenspiel and vibraphone are also metallophones: they have two rows of bars, in an imitation of the piano keyboard, and are tuned to the chromatic scale.
In music of the 20th century and beyond, the word metallophone is sometimes applied specifically to a single row of metal bars suspended over a resonator box. Metallophones tuned to the diatonic scale are often used in schools; Carl Orff used diatonic metallophones in several of his pieces, including his pedagogical Schulwerk. Metallophones with microtonal tunings are used in Iannis Xenakis' Pléïades and in the music of Harry Partch.O Fortuna
"O Fortuna" is a medieval Latin Goliardic poem written early in the 13th century, part of the collection known as the Carmina Burana. It is a complaint about Fortuna, the inexorable fate that rules both gods and mortals in Roman and Greek mythology.
In 1935–36, "O Fortuna" was set to music by German composer Carl Orff as a part of "Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi", the opening and closing movement of his cantata Carmina Burana. It was first staged by the Frankfurt Opera on 8 June 1937. It opens at a slow pace with thumping drums and choir that drops quickly into a whisper, building slowly in a steady crescendo of drums and short string and horn notes peaking on one last long powerful note and ending abruptly. The tone is modal, until the last 9 bars. A performance takes a little over two and a half minutes.
Orff's setting of the poem has influenced and been used in many other works and has been performed by countless classical music ensembles and popular artists. It can be heard in numerous films and television commercials, and has become a staple in popular culture, setting the mood for dramatic or cataclysmic situations. "O Fortuna" topped a 2009 list of the most-played classical music of the previous 75 years in the United Kingdom.Orff Schulwerk
The Orff Schulwerk, or simply the Orff Approach, is a developmental approach used in music education. It combines music, movement, drama, and speech into lessons that are similar to child's world of play. It was developed by the German composer Carl Orff (1895–1982) and colleague Gunild Keetman during the 1920s. Carl Orff worked until the end of his life to continue the development and spread of his teaching method.
The Orff Approach is now used throughout the world to teach students in a natural and comfortable environment. The term "schulwerk" is German for (literally) "school work" or "schooling", in this regard in the area of music.Peter Frohmader
Peter Frohmader (born May 9, 1958) is a German electronic composer, musician and visual artist. He is also known by the pseudonym Nekropolis, a name under which he released several early works. Taking cues from Carl Orff, Magma, Glenn Branca, and Black Sabbath, Frohmader was recognized for his nightmarish and gothic compositions and as an important figure on the European progressive electronic scene.Rotae Passionis
Rotae Passionis ('Passion Wheels') is a piece for mixed chamber ensemble by the American composer Christopher Rouse. It was commissioned by Boston Musica Viva and completed in 1983, when the work was first performed. It is dedicated to Carl Orff who died the previous year.Trionfi (Orff)
Trionfi is a trilogy of cantatas by German composer Carl Orff:
Trionfo di AfroditeCarmina Burana is by far the most famous of the three.Trionfo di Afrodite
Trionfo di Afrodite (Italian, literally Triumph of Aphrodite) is a cantata called "concerto scenico" (scenic concert) written in 1951 by the German composer Carl Orff. It is part of Trionfi, the musical triptych that also includes Carmina Burana and Catulli Carmina. In this case, "Trionfo" refers to the Roman and Renaissance trionfo, meaning "procession" or "festival". Trionfi was premiered
in 1953 at La Scala in Milano, conducted by Herbert von Karajan.
Like Igor Stravinsky's Les noces, Trionfo di Afrodite describes rituals for a (in this case Greek-Roman) wedding. The texts are based on Latin wedding poems by Catullus, as well as Greek poems by Sappho and a small part by Euripides. Despite the large orchestra, the instrumentation is often sparse, especially in the Greek verses, and the music is strongly influenced by the rhythms and melodies of the spoken word, though little importance is actually given to both tonic and prosodic accent. The piece closes with a triumphant apparition of Aphrodite herself, a rare instance when the full choral and orchestral forces are actually used.
Apart from the orchestra, the piece calls for five soloists (SSTTB) and a large mixed chorus.