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Carl Orff

Carl Orff was born in Munich in 1895. He studied at the Munich Academy, but left to join the Army in 1914. In 1920 he returned to Munich for further study with Kaminsky. One of his life-long interests was the musical education of children, and in 1924, with his colleague Dorothee Günther, he founded the Günther School in Munich, an institution specialising in music, gymnastics, movement and dance education. At about this time, he also developed a passion for the music of renaissance composers such as Monteverdi, and made several editions of his operas including L'incoronazione di Poppea. He also wrote an Entrata for orchestra after William Byrd.

In the early 1930s he came across a catalogue published by an antiquarian book dealer in Würzburg. One title in particular caught his eye, Carmina burana (Songs of Beuren). Excerpts from these mediaeval songs served as the basis for his best-known work of the same name, premiered in 1937. The work also marked a u-turn in his musical style, reducing it to a new level of harmonic simplicity, with rhythms heavily influenced by speech patterns. Carmina burana was a huge success and following its premiere, he disowned all of his previous works.

Most of his works were written for the stage, but are normally performed in concert versions. He followed Carmina burana with the 'Fairytale opera' Der Mond (The Moon, 1939), Die Kluge (The Clever Girl, 1942) and Catulli carmina (Songs of Catullus, 1943). This last work was to become the second in his Trionfi - Trittico Teatrale (Triumph - theatrical tryptich), the first work of which was Carmina burana and the third, Trionfo di Afrodite (The Triumph of Aphrodite, 1951).

In the 1950s, he returned to one of his early works, a five-volume set of works for children that would allow even children not versed in music to perform them relatively easily, and set about revising it. He also continued to compose in the new dryer and more concise style brought about by work on Carmina burana. His last major works include Astutuli (1946), Comoedia de Christi Resurrectione (An Easter Play, 1955), Ludus de nato infante mirificus (A Christmas Play, 1960), Prometheus (1967) and De temporum fine comoedia (A Comedy for the End of Time, 1971), all for the stage. He died in Munich in 1982.

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