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Carl Orff (Composer)

Carl Orff was a distinguished German composer of the 20th-century, best known for his cantata Carmina Burana. Although much of his standing as a musician rests on his cantata, Carl Orff was, in truth, an ingenuous musician and prolific composer who engendered many musical styles before formulating the fundamental, driving language for his musical works. His mother Paula was an amateur pianist who triggered in him an undying passion for music and from an early age, Carl dreamt of being a musician. Disgruntled with the then method of music tutelage, Orff developed a new influential method of music education for children. His works were greatly based on texts or topics from antiquity. Apart from being a renowned composer, Orff was also esteemed as world's pre-eminent authority on children's music education that can be gauged from his musical works for children titled Musik fur Kinder five eclectic collections of music that was eventually developed into an extensive series called as Orff Schulwerk. Read on to know more interesting facts about Carl Orff.


Works

Orff is most 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 movie 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 (15391623)), 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.

Gassenhauer, which Orff composed with Gunild Keetman, was used as the theme music for Terrence Malick's film Badlands (1973). Hans Zimmer later reworked this music for his True Romance (1993) score.





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