Unterschrift Carl Orff

Study of the old masters

»Autumn 1921. I wanted to learn, learn, learn. This was why I continued my apprenticeship with the old masters.«[1]

From 1919, Orff worked as a freelance composer in Munich; during the following period up to 1931/32, he developed his own individual style. The composer turned his back on the musical language of Richard Strauss and studied the music of the 16th and 17th centuries.

In 1921, Curt Sachs attracted Orff’s attention to Monteverdi. The arrangements of several of Monteverdi’s major compositions, beginning with Orpheus in 1923/24, were regarded as a pioneering effort from the aspects of both performance practice and musicology and had great significance for the development of Orff’s musical language.


Curt Sachs and Carl Orff: »You are the music dramatist to the manner born and your field is the stage. Go and train with the very best music dramatist!«[3] (Lamenti, Klage der Ariadne, stage photo of the first performance, Schwetzingen 1958)
(Lamenti, Klage der Ariadne, stage photo of the first performance, Schwetzingen 1958)


»In my diary [...]the entry for December 1917 contains the spontaneous and categorical command: study the old masters!!!«[2] (Score ›Entrata‹ based on William Byrd 1928)
»I then began to immerse myself in the literal sense of the word in the works of the old masters.«[3] (Facsimile, Monteverdi ›Lamento d'Arianna‹)
»What Carl Orff was searching for and also found in the works of the old masters is in principle an age-old antiquity going far beyond these works which gives his language a firm musical footing.« [4] (stage design for Entrata by Helmut Jürgens, Munich 1963}


[1] CO-Dok II,121; [2] CO-Dok II,7; [3] zitiert nach CO-Dok II,14; [4] Theodor Göllner: Carl Orff und die alten Meister, in; Bayr. Akad. d. Schönen Künste, Jahrbuch 2/1, Munich 1988, p. 245
Images : 1 Madeline Winkler-Betzendahl, German Theatre Museum; 2 CO-Dok II,201; 3 Facsimile; 4 OZM
Audio: Ferdinand Leitner - Acanta 44 2099-2

Klage der Ariadne

Academy of music munich

Study of the old masters