Composer. His style often combined medieval-sounding modes with modern techniques He is best-known for "Carmina Burana" (1937), a "scenic cantata" set to 13th Century verse. Its simple, memorable tunes and pulsing rhythms have made it internationally popular. Critics have chided Orff for his reductive use of harmony and other tools of his craft, but his best music has undeniable vitality. Orff was born in Munich, Germany, where he lived nearly all his life, and studied at the Academy there. He served in the German Army during World War I. In 1924 he founded the Gunther School, where his lifelong interest in musical education for youth began. "Music for Children" (five volumes, 1930 to 1935) is a collection of pieces he composed for young students to play. He later developed his educational ideas into an innovative method he called "Orff Schulwerk." After 1937 he wrote exclusively for the theatre, his dramatic forms influenced by medieval mystery plays. "Carmina Burana" and its sequels, "Catulli Carmina" (1943) and "The Triumph of Aphrodite" (1951), were intended as stage works, but are most often heard in concert performance. His other compositions include the operas "The Moon" (1939), "The Clever Girl" (1943), "Antigone" (1949), and "A Play of the End of Time" (1973). Orff's activities under Hitler have caused much speculation. There is no firm evidence he was a Nazi, nor is there any to support his post-war claim that he belonged to the anti-Nazi resistance group "The White Rose" (although he was a personal friend of the movement's leader, Kurt Huber, who was executed by the Gestapo in 1943). The fact that "Carmina Burana" is the most famous piece of serious music composed and premiered in Nazi Germany still taints it somewhat in the eyes of reviewers. Controversy aside, "Carmina Burana" is probably the most frequently performed and recorded 20th Century choral work. Its powerful opening number, "O Fortuna," has been used in many films (notably "Excalibur" and "The Doors"), TV commercials, and even as introductory music for heavy-metal rock concerts.
Bio by: Bobb Edwards