Carl Orff | LCIT | SIU

Southern Illinois University



College of Liberal Arts

Carl Orff

Born Munich, 10 July 1895

Died Munich, 29 March 1982

He studied at the Munich Academy and later, in 1920, with Kaminski. In 1924, with Dorothee Günther, he founded a school for gymnastics, music and dance, and out of this came his later activity in providing materials for young children to make music, using their voices and simple percussion instruments. His adult works also seek to make contact with primitive kinds of musical behaviour, as represented by ostinato, pulsation and direct vocal expression of emotion; in this he was influenced by Stravinsky (Oedipus rex, The Wedding), though the models are coarsened to produce music of a powerful pagan sensual appeal and physical excitement. All his major works, including the phenomenally successful Carmina burana (1937), were designed as pageants for the stage; they include several versions of Greek tragedies and Bavarian comedies.

Extracted from The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music, edited by Stanley Sadie, Macmillan Press Ltd., London.


First performed Frankfurt 8 June 1937

A collection of songs from a collection of thireteenth_century songs, texts in Latin, Old German, Old French, and Italian.

Four main sections Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi I (Fortune Empress of the World), Primo vere, In taberna (In the tavern, the peasant dance), Cor d'amours (Expression of Love). Each expresses aspects of medieval life, especially the Wheel of Fortune (not the one with Vanna White)

Very neo_romantic yet newly innovative with a mixing of the oratorio, theater, and operatic orchestrations Done somewhat as an homage to Monteverdi (more specifically, to Orfeo, of which Orff did his own version). Has a romantic style reminiscent of Strauss but a pointalistic style like that of Debussy. During the writing of Carmina Burana Orff had a close relationship with Werner Eck.

In the Fortuna chorus and No. 3 (Veris lets facies) there is sound color 'painting' spring. Number 5 (ecce gratum) displays Orff's mastery of form. No. 6 is the beginning of the dance scene. The In taberna is the peasant dance. No. 24 is a chorus of Dionysiac intensity, an appeal to Venus herself_the final chorus leading perfectly into the reprised Fortuna chorus, hence completing the cycle.