10 July 1895 - 29 March 1982 (age 86)

As a composer Carl Orff is best known for O Fortuna from his cantataCarmina Burana.
Besides composing he had a strong interest in music education and developed the 'Orff Schulw
erk' or 'Orff Approach' of teaching music to children, a method which is used in many countries.





Ortrait of Carl Orff


Born: 10 July 1895, Munich, Germany zodiac: cancer
Father: Heinrich (1869-1949), military officer, played piano and various string instruments
Mother: Paola (Koestler) (1872-1960) a talented pianist.
Siblings: Maria (Mia) sister
Wife 1: Alice Solscher, (1920 - 1927), singer
Children: Godela (daughter), actress and elocution teacher
Wife 2: Gertrud Willert (1939 - 1953), founder of Orff music therapy
Wife 3: Luise Rinser (1954 - 1959), writer
Wife 4: Liselotte Schmitz (1960 - ) Director of the Carl Orff Foundation
Died: 29 March 1982, Munich Germany, see findagrave
Grave: Klosterkirche, Andechs, nr Munich, Germany
Cause of death: unspecified (age 86 so probably of old age!)


Die Kluge
Der Mond
Orpheus (adaptation of Monteverdi's Orfeo)
Ein Sommernachtstraum
Choral works
Carmina burana
Trionfo di Afrodite
Catulli carmine
Olympischer Reigen
Prelude for orchestra
Concertino for wind
Music for Children 
Orff-Schulwerk: an approach to music education still used worlwide.
Writings: 5 volumes of his 'Music for Children' published in 1950.

Favorite Composers in Art - Carl Orff 
A fascinating collection of images - art, portraits, caricatures, cartoons, album covers and postage stamps.


- "Since the beginning of time, children have not liked to study. They would much rather play, and if you have their interests at heart, you will let them learn while they play; they will find that what they have mastered is child's play."

- "Tell me, I forget, show me, I remember, involve me, I understand."

- "Experience first, then intellectualize."

- " Elemental music is never just music. It's bound up with movement, dance and speech, and so it is a form of music in which one must participate, in which one is involved not as a listener but as a co-performer."

Life and career

Age 5: First piano lessons.
Age 7: First cello lessons
Age 16: Some music published.
Age 17 - 19: Studies music at Academy of Music, Munich.
Age 21: Musical Director of Munich Chamber Theatre
Age 22: Military Service. (First World War). Severely injured in the trenches.
Age 23: Musical director in Mannheim and Darmstadt
Age 29: Co-founded Günther School of Music in Munich.
Age 31: Begins collaboration with Gunild Keetman, co-originator of the Orff Schulwerk system of music education.
Age 41: Music for the 1936 Berlin Olympics 'Entrance of the Children'.
Age 42: First performance of Carmina Burana.
Age 49: (1944) Günther School closed by the Nazis
Age 55-59: Publisher Schott publishes "Orff Schulwerk. Musik für Kinder"
Age 67,68 and71:lectures abroad on 'Schulwerk'
Age 80 - 86: Works on his 8 volumes of 'Carl Orff and his Works'

O Fortuna - Carmina Burana 
Andre Rieu

A complete performance (1hr 11min) of Carmina Burana here

"Gassenhauer "

See Carl Orff himself 

Orff and Nazism

Opinions on Orff's relationship with fascism and the Nazi regime are divided. There are those that condemn him as being a supporter and collaborator and others who strongly defend him. 
This is a debate which I do not wish to enter into here in any depth. 
It does appear though that as a man his behaviour was determined by his own interests and that his personal life was 'unhappy' as evidenced from his four marriages and his disowning his only daughter.

Documentary films

In 2009 Tony Palmer, the British film maker, made a controversial documentary 'O Fortuna'on the life of Orff and his 'Carmina Burana'. Here is a Guardian review of the film.

There is also a 55min documentary (in German with English subtitles) here on YouTube.

The Jenkins Orff Ensemble Performs for Music Educators in San Antonio

Music for 1936 Olympics

Slaves of Job
by MissDaviesMusic


Together with his colleague Gunild Keetman Orff developed an approach of teaching music to children which is still used today all over the world. 
It uses the child's sense of play using song, dance, acting, movement and the use of simple percussion instruments in the belief that children can learn music in the same way that they learn a language. See links below for more information.

Links, sources and where to go for more information:

Answers.com a selection of reference sites including Wikipedia

Orff Society UK - Nurturing Creativity through Music

AOSA American Orff-Schulwerk Association

About.com an overview of the Schulwerk system

Classics for Kids (the Orff Approach)

Arthur Coleman MD interesting article

Back to 52composers HOME page

New! Comments

Feel free to leave a comment. Thank you.

Custom Search


poster, prints, cards and  gifts
Click on image for buying information

Sell Art Online