Academy of Music in Munich

»The academy as a whole was conservative and old-fashioned.«[1]

»You have enquired about the ›Treibhauslieder‹. They don’t exist anymore. I have thrown the entire decadent filth onto the fire.«[2] (Carl Orff 1911)
(Carl Orff 1911)


Orff found the tuition at the Academy of Music (1912-1914) over-conservative. He devoted himself intensively to the independent study of Schoenberg’s harmonic theory and works and the music of Debussy. It was particularly Debussy’s tonal language which provided inspiration for his first work for the stage: ›Gisei‹, a musical drama Op. 20 (1913) set to his own text which was loosely based on the Japanese No drama Terakoya.

Up to 1914, he followed the major trends of the musical avant-garde as can be seen for example in the orchestral work ›Tanzende Faune‹ or the dream play ›Treibhauslieder‹ set to poems by M. Maeterlinck, of which only a few sketches have survived.

Directly before the outbreak of World War I, Orff recognised that he was progressing on the wrong track and radically changed direction. He was irrevocably attracted by the theatre.


»The entrance examination for the Academy of Music [Akademie der Tonkunst] (in Munich) [...]was no problem for me [...]. I entered the composition class of Professor Anton Beer-Walbrunn.« He »was an extremely conscientious and endearing teacher: like a figure from a Spitzweg painting and possessing copious self-irony: a master of the old school with extensive ability and knowledge.«[1] (First letter from Orff dated 12.10.1911 to Schott music publishers requesting the publishing of ›Eliland‹, op.12)
»My discovery of the ›Blaue Reiter‹, [...] this unique manifesto of new art, was for me of almost equal significance to my discovery of Debussy.« [3] (Carl Orff 1919)
»I considered conventional counterpoint and the composition of sonatas and fugues according to scholarly models as a complete waste of time [...]. My timetable and tuition seemed so far apart from my musical imagination and intentions that I could not imagine that I would gain sympathetic help for my work and concepts.«[4] (page of autograph score of ›Gisei‹, op.20)


[1] CO-Dok I,44; [2] CO-Dok I,57; [3] CO-Dok I,51; [4] CO-Dok I,45
Images: 1 from: »Carl Orff – Ein Bericht in Wort und Bild« Schott-Verlag, Mainz 1955; 2-3 OZM; 4 CO-Dok I,112
Audio: WER 6279-2

Mir träumte von einem Königskind (Heine) from Op. 13 (1911)

Academy of Music in Munich

Study of the old masters