Carl Orff

Carl Orff
10.07.1895 - 29.03.1982
Period:XX age


Carl Orff is a very famous German composer and is widely known for his work in music education and his exploring work in finding a specific connection between music and its movement. Exploring it Carl found a similar connection between the dramatic and the musical movements while composing his personal music style. Thus after finding this similarity, Carl Orff started repeating di patterns of notes and compelling rhythms.

No doubt, Carl Orff is a naturally gifted musician, who was always unmotivated as a performance student. He always put attention in creating original music for piano, violin, zither, and glockenspiel. Carl also wrote many puppet shows and staged them especially for his own family.

Orff Carl was born in Munich on 10th of July, 1895, and belonged to a Bavarian family that was very active in the German military. Carl’s father was working in a regimental band and also served in the military in World War I, during which he was severely injured and nearly killed in a trench cave.

Orff‘s mother helped him while composing his first works in musical notation. Later on, he started writing texts himself without joning an educational establishment or attending composition lesson. He started studying piano at a very young age, when he was just five years old. In the same age he also started to take organ and cello lessons.

In the beginning of his early career, Carl Orff first wrote a short story and then published it in a children's magazine, in 1905. Later he started to write a book about the nature. In his teenage Carl Orff was also found of collecting insects in his leisure time. Carl composed many popular songs, although he had never studied harmony or composition. Similarly, he learned the art of composing not from a teacher but by studying the great works of classical music.

Some musical works of Carl Orff were published, when he was 16 years old. Most of his creative work that he composed in his youth was based on songs, which often showed the texts settings influenced by canonical German poets.

After the death of his father, Orff got a prominent position at opera houses in Mannheim and Darmstadt respectively, but later on, he returned to Munich to pursue his music studies.

In 1912, Carl Orff wrote a large choral work that includes; Also Sprach Zarathustra (meaning: Thus Spoke Zarathustra) and an opera namely Gisei, Das Opfer (meaning: The Sacrifice). After that he was impressed by impressionistic musical style of a French composer, Claude Debussy and started to cultivate the use of unusual combinations of instruments in his orchestration.

Carl Orff is also best known for his large scale work namely, “Carmina Burana”. This work is based on Medieval Latin and Old German lyrics found at the monastery of Benediktbeuern. The first part of Carmina Burana was based on Latin texts while the other two parts of Carmina Burana are Catulli Carmina and Trionfo di Afrodite.

Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana was based on an important collection of Latin and German Goliard poems, which were composed in 1803, and were discovered by the library of the Benedictine monastery of Beuron, near Munich.

These poems, which appealed to Orff because of its variety of moods like humor, sadness, pleasure, wishes and suggestive nature of verses were written by Monks and Minstrels. Orff selected about twenty poems for featuring the wheel of fortune and arranged them into bawdy songs for soloists and chorus, with the help of different instruments and magic images.

“Carmina Burana” was his first performance, which later became the start of Orff’s career. Carl’s Carmina Burana became even more popular among unmusical audiences by the use of its elements for advertising and films.

Elementare Musik or Elemental Music was a new musical term formulated by Carl Orff in the mid-1920s. Elemental Music was based on the unity of the arts symbolized by the ancient Greek Muses and was involved in tone, dance, poetry, image, design, and theatrical gesture.

Initially Carmina Burana was generally performed as a form of secular oratorio, in the concert hall, rather than performed on the big stage such as Catulli Carmina (Catullus’s Songs), but later on, it was again intended for theatrical presentation.

Orff's Carmina Burana was hugely popular in Nazi Germany after its premiere in Frankfurt. He got much honor in Nazi culture due to Carmina Burana and his creative musical work. In the Nazi newspaper, Orff’s musical work was described as "the kind of clear, stormy, and yet always disciplined music that our time requires". Orff was a very close friend of Kurt Huber, who was condemned to death by the Volksgerichtshof and executed by the Nazis, in 1943.

Carl Orff was the only one among the German composers under the Nazi regime who responded to the official call to write new incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream. But Orff had already composed music for this play, long before this was a favor for the Nazi government in 1917 and 1927.

Many critics mentioned that composing music for Nazi’s plays in those years, when the Nazis were not in power, was not an easily job, and later it followed with racist attacks because Carl Orff was a Jew.

Carl Orff also began adapting musical works of earlier eras like Claudio Monteverdi's opera L'Orfeo, in order to present contemporary theaters. Similarly, Carl’s German version Orpheus, which was staged in 1925, was based on some of the instruments that had been used in the 1607 performance.

Since 1925 to the end of Carl’s life, he was serving as the head of a department and co-founder of the Guenther School, which was popular for its gymnastics, music, and dance in Munich. In the beginning Carl Orff also worked with musicals as a musical teacher and performed many music constant contacts with children. Guenther School had great importance in Carl’s life, as it was the place, where he developed his different theories for music education.

Most of Orff's later musical works includes Antigonae (1949), Oedipus Der Tyrann (1958), Prometheus Desmotes (1967), and De Temporum fine Comoedia (1971). Carl’s all work was based on texts or topics from antiquity. All these operas were occasionally performed in Germany, as these ere expensive to stage and are not true operas in the conventional sense.

Carl Orff died in 1982 at the age of 86 and was buried in the Baroque church of the beer-brewing Benedictine priory of Andechs, south of Munich. His tombstone bears a Latin inscription "Summus Finis" (meaning: the ultimate goal) and presents his name, birth and death dates.

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