Carl Orff was born in Munich on 10 July 1895. Already in 1900 he was taking piano, cello and organ lessons. In the same year his first printed work (Eiland, ein Sang vom Chiemsee) was published, and he took his first systematic courses of music theory. In 1912 Orff composed his first choral work (Also sprach Zarathustra) and an early opera (Gisei, das Opfer, completed in 1913). From 1913 to 1914, he studied composition at the Munich Akademie der Tonkunst with Anton Beer-Walbrunn and from 1915 to 1919 he worked as musical director at the Muenchner Kammerspiele, the Mannheim Nationaltheater and the Darmstadt Landestheater. Continuing his studies of composition with Heinrich Kaminski in 1921, Orff began to occupy himself intensely with Bach, Buxtehude, Pachelbel and in particular Monteverdi.
Having been involved in the foundation of the "Guenther-Schule" for gymnastics, music and dance (1924), he became director of the department of "taenzerische Musikerziehung" [music and dance education]. One of Orff's major achievements was the "Orff-Schulwerk Music for Children", an educational method for children, published from 1930 to 1935. Spreading with an astonishing rapidity and intensity around the world, it is still successfully used (in pedagogy and therapy as well). Leading a master class for musical and dramatical composition at the Munich Hochschule fuer Musik from 1950 to 1960, he was appointed director of the new Orff Institute at the Mozarteum in Salzburg in 1961.
Orff received the honorary doctorate of the universities of Tubingen (1959) and Munich and the Grand Cross with star and ribbon of the Federal Republic of Germany (1972). In 1974 he was awarded the Romano Guardini Prize by the Catholic Academy in Bavaria.
Already from his first compositions, Orff concentrated on text-related music, tending to melt theatre, music, dance and spectacle into a unity, whereat the rhythm of speech often forms the compositional framework. Orff's fascination for the Middle Ages and antiquity led to works such as the cycle Trionfi (Carmina Burana, 1936, Catulli Carmina, 1943, and Trionfo di Afrodite, 1951) or the trilogy Lamenti (Orpheus, 1924/1939 ,Klage der Ariadne, 1925/1940, and Tanz der Spruden, 1925/1940), as well as the Greek dramas Antigonae (1949), Oedipus der Tyrann (1959) or Prometheus (1967).Â A second group of works are his fairy-tale compositions Der Mond (1938) and Die Kluge (1943), and a third can be seen in works related to his Bavarian homeland: fascinated by the dialect's richness of vowels, Orff created works in Bavarian dialect such as Die Bernauerin (1946). His last stage work, the mystery play De temporum fine comoedia, was performed for the first time at the Salzburg Festival in 1973. He died in Munich on 29 March 1982.