Orff, Carl: b. July 10, 1895 Munich; d. March 29, 1982 Munich

It would be unfortunate if Orff were remembered in Everything2 only for his Carmina Burana, the first of a trilogy that also included Cartulli Carmina and Triunfo de Aphrodite. There is already an excellent node for the Burana that reveals the genius of this composer and the breadth of his interest in medieval German poetry. While "modern" in some of his compositional techniques, Orff in the trilogy is able to capture the spirit of that age with infectious rhythms and easy tonalities. The medieval poems written in an early form of German and in Latin were often "naughty," but without descending into smut for smut's sake.

In pedagogical circles he is probably most remembered for his Schulwerk (1930-35), translated into English as his "Music for Children." Its simple musical instrumentation allowed even untutored child musicians to perform the piece with relative ease. Much of his life Orff worked with children, using music as an educational tool. Both melody and rhythm are often determined by the words, in either the German or English production. There is a feeling of enthusiasm in the performances I've heard that echo the joy the performers obviously feel in creating such beautiful music.

Orff was reluctant to call any of his works just operas. For example, he called Der Mond ( = the moon) (1939) a Märchenoper ( = fairytale opera). Die Kluge ( = the wise woman) (1943) would fall into the same category. In both there is that same medieval or timeless sound without actually copying the musical idioms of the period. Although I haven't heard either of them in years, I can still remember the melodies, rhythms and. with them, the text. Proof of a rare and flawless union of words and music.

Of his Antigone(1949) Orff said specifically, that it was not an opera, but a musical setting (Vertonung) of an ancient tragedy. The text is an excellent German translation of Sophocles' play of that name (by Friedrich Hölderlin, I believe). The orchestration, particularly for the percussion section, is greater than tremendous. Some have called the style "minimalist" which it may be in terms of melodic line, but it emotional content it is certainly overwhelming.

His final work, De Temporum Fine Comoedia ( = a play of the end of time), Orff called a Mysterienspiel, a mystery play. I heard the recording only once and then with a small group of people in a private home. I'm not certain what we expected of a piece with the word Comoedia in the title, but we got much more than we bargained for. In some respects it may not be as "accessible" as Carmina, but it obviously moved all of us. The silence in the room for moments afterwards was very much like the silence after a performance of Parsifal.

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