Carl Orff

Work Arranger, Composer

1895 — 1982
Carl Orff was born in Munich, where he began studying the piano, organ, and cello at the age of five. Eleven years later, he starting publishing his first songs. After studying conducting, he held appointments in Munich, Mannheim and Darmstadt, while his passionate interest in early music encouraged him to arrange works by Baroque composers such as Monteverdi. His major pedagogical work was his Schulwerk, an ongoing project that was launched in 1930 and is the only one of his works to have survived from before 1937: all the others he destroyed, declaring them unworthy of interest. His spectacularly famous Carmina burana dates from 1937 and ushered in a series of works aimed at "total theatre" that brought his name to the attention of audiences all over the world. Based on medieval Latin and German texts praising the pleasures of the flesh, the Carmina burana derives much of its effect from its revival of earlier techniques such as ostinato patterns, textual repetitions, and complex and varied rhythms, with a greatly expanded percussion section replacing the instruments familiar from the post-Romantic orchestra of the later 19th century. Classical melody and traditional harmony give way to more striking theatrical effects, with a consort of choirs and savage percussion unleashed in a veritable frenzy of animalistic exultation.