The Times: Carl Orff, the composer who lived a monstrous lie

49 views
Skip to first unread message

Premise Checker

unread,
Dec 23, 2008, 8:31:18 PM12/23/08
to
Carl Orff, the composer who lived a monstrous lie
http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/music/article5366154.ece
[Thanks to Sarah for this.]

December 19, 2008

The creator of Carmina Burana hid an ugly secret about his betrayal of a
friend under the Third Reich

Richard Morrison

The opening line of Carmina Burana - "O Fortuna!" - could hardly be
more apt. Few composers felt themselves more at the mercy of
capricious gods and twists of fate than its composer, Carl Orff. He
was never a diehard Nazi; indeed, he looked with disdain on their
oafish cultural values. Far from espousing the hounding of "inferior
races", he was fascinated by jazz and by what today we would call
world music. Yet he rose to become one of the Third Reich's top
musicians.

According to one of his four wives, he "found it impossible to love"
and "despised people". Yet in Carmina Burana he created the world's
jolliest musical celebration of boozing, feasting and generally
enjoying the sins of other people's flesh.

He turned his back on his own teenage daughter, who adored him. "He
didn't want me in his married life," she recalls sadly. Yet he was
(and, in some quarters, still is) adulated in educational circles
for his Schulwerksystem of teaching music to young children through
rhythm and gesture--a system he originally intended to flog to the
Hitler Youth movement. It is still used around the world,
particularly (and paradoxically) to help children with cerebral
palsy, who would probably not be alive if Hitler's Germany had
triumphed.

A connoisseur of Greek drama, and a perceptive scholar who edited
and performed Monteverdi long before the rest of the world
rediscovered the Baroque genius, he talked eloquently about the need
for people to express themselves through art if they were to become
"complete" human beings. Yet one of his wives says that he himself
was full of "demonic forces" and would "wake up screaming at night".
He used people shamelessly. Yet, as another wife puts it, "all his
life he wanted forgiveness" for the guilt that consumed him. He was
obsessed by the myth of Orpheus, the musician who descended into the
Underworld. "Just like Orff himself," his biographer notes.

All this, and an act of treachery hidden until now, is revealed in
an exceptional film by Tony Palmer, fittingly called O Fortuna,
that's just out on DVD and will be broadcast on Sky Arts 2 in late
January. The timing is perfect. Next month, a spectacular touring
production of Carmina Burana rolls up at the O venue in the former
Millennium Dome. For the past four decades this bawdy oratorio has
been performed somewhere in the world every day of every year. But
this show is likely to eclipse all previous stagings. Besides a
chorus and orchestra of 250, it has fireworks, giant puppets, cannon
effects, and, according to its producer, Franz Abraham, "erotic
scenes with naked girls imitating an orgy".

For once it can be truthfully said that the composer would have
loved it. And the show, which has already played to a million people
on its 13-year global journey, is expected to attract huge audiences
- upwards of 10,000 on each of its two nights.

I doubt whether many of those 20,000 punters, innocently enjoying
this tub-thumping, thigh-slapping medley of pulsating choral numbers
(based, incongruously, on a collection of poems by 13th-century
monks, discovered in a monastery in Orff's beloved Bavaria) will be
aware that the piece had its premiere, in 1937, at a Nazi Party
gathering. Nor that its creator had a dark secret that Palmer's film
highlights for the first time.

Orff had a friend called Kurt Huber, an academic who had helped him
with librettos. Huber was also a brave man. During the war he
founded the Munich unit of Die Weisse Rose (The White Rose), the
German resistance movement. In February 1943 he and other Resistance
members were arrested by the Gestapo, tortured and publicly hanged.
Orff happened to call at Huber's house the day after his arrest.
Huber's wife (whom Palmer tracked down for his film) begged Orff to
use his influence to help her husband. But Orff's only thought was
for his own position. If his friendship with Huber came out, he told
her, he would be "ruined". Huber's wife never saw Orff again.

Two years later, after Germany's surrender, Orff himself was
interrogated--by an American intelligence officer who had to
establish whether Orff could be "denazi-fied". That would allow Orff
(among other things) to collect the massive royalties from Carmina
Burana. The American asked Orff if he could think of a single thing
he had done to stand up to Hitler, or to distance himself from the
policies of the Third Reich? Orff had done nothing of that kind. So
he made up a brazen lie. Knowing that anyone who might contradict
him was likely to be dead, he told Jenkins that he had co-founded
Die Weisse Rose with his friend, Kurt Huber. He was believed--or at
least, not sufficiently disbelieved to have his denazification
delayed.

And then, as Palmer's film reveals, Orff did the most astonishing
thing. He sat down and wrote a fictitious letter to his dead friend,
in effect apologising for his behaviour. He craved Huber's
forgiveness--even, it seems, from beyond the grave.

In my mind Orff's tangled career raises two fundamental questions.
The first is, how would we have behaved in his circumstances? Before
the Nazis endorsed Carmina Burana, he had been penniless. He was
seduced by the rank and riches he suddenly acquired--far too
seduced to bite the thuggish hands that fed him. And unlike many
other German geniuses, he loved Bavaria too much to think of
emigrating (even though, with a Jewish grandparent, he was taking a
colossal risk of being exposed by staying).

So he acquiesced. He even wrote new incidental music to
Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, so that the famous score by
the Jewish composer Mendelssohn could be banished. Then, at the end
of the war, he panicked and told a dreadful lie to get himself off
the hook. From the comfortable perspective of 60 years' distance,
it's easy to damn his cowardice and self-preserving mendacity. But
millions behave with equal spinelessness in offices round the world
every day, when the only danger is losing a coveted promotion or
having to shoulder responsibility for some cockup.

The second question is, should any of this affect our appreciation
of Carmina Burana, with its proto-minimalist rhythmic energy and its
alluring exhortation for us to eat, drink, fornicate and be merry,
because tomorrow we die?

After all, if we disqualified from our approval all art commissioned
by montrous regimes or nasty patrons, or created by appalling
people, there would be very few Old Masters in our galleries, and no
Wagner in our opera houses.

"The fact that the Nazis liked Orff's music is not in itelf proof
that Orff was a Nazi, or approved of their methods," Abraham says.
"He simply lived in that generation of Germans when, unfortunately,
everybody had a connection of some sort with the Nazis. Even the
so-called good guys. Look at Günter Grass. Two years ago he shocked
everyone by revealing that he was in the SS." At least one gets the
feeling that Orff, waking up screaming in the night, knew exactly
how badly he had behaved.

The final irony in his twisted and compromised life? When he died in
1982 this most unsaintly of men ended up, as he wished, buried in a
monastery--just like the scurrilous medieval poems that brought him
such fame.

O Fortuna is available on DVD at www.voiceprint.co.uk or
www.tonypalmerdvd.com.Carmina Burana is at the O2 Arena, London SE10
(www. theO2.co.uk; 0844 8560202), on Jan 17, 18

Matthew B. Tepper

unread,
Dec 23, 2008, 9:32:17 PM12/23/08
to
Premise Checker <che...@panix.com> appears to have caused the following
letters to be typed in
news:Pine.NEB.4.64.08...@panix2.panix.com:

> All this, and an act of treachery hidden until now, is revealed in
> an exceptional film by Tony Palmer

ARGGGH! Isn't there ANYBODY other than Tony Palmer (and Ken Russell) who is
willing to make films about classical music composers? (OK, Milos Forman,
but who else?)

--
Matthew B. Tepper: WWW, science fiction, classical music, ducks!
My personal home page -- http://home.earthlink.net/~oy/index.html
My main music page --- http://home.earthlink.net/~oy/berlioz.html
To write to me, do for my address what Androcles did for the lion
Opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of my employers

Michael Schaffer

unread,
Dec 23, 2008, 9:55:47 PM12/23/08
to
On Dec 23, 8:31 pm, Premise Checker <chec...@panix.com> wrote:
> Carl Orff, the composer who lived a monstrous lie

Yawn! All that has long been known. It is not entirely clear though if
he really lied about his involvement with the "Weisse Rose" as there
is apparently no mention of that in his de-nazification file. At least
that's what I read somewhere, but it may not be true. Maybe someone
has more solid information about that. He certainly never was an
active member of the "Weisse Rose". If he had been, he would not have
survived. And whatever "influence" he may have had or not (more
likely, next to none) would not have helped Huber at all. He couldn't
have done anything for him except for getting himself killed, too. I
am not surprised that that tortured him. That must be a horrible
situation to be in even if you are only on the periphery. Since he was
a known acquaintance of Huber, he was definitely on the Gestapo's
radar. I think we should all be glad that we ourselves will (most
likely) never get into such a situation.

Bob Lombard

unread,
Dec 23, 2008, 10:21:40 PM12/23/08
to

On the other hand, you yourself may be on the smiley radar of one or
more groups headquartered in the Idaho panhandle, because of your
persecution of this ng's begging-for-persecution Jew. If you can produce
a certificate affirming type A blood, your acceptance is likely.

I am not accusing you of anything, Michael, just pointing out that the
'walks like one, talks like one' principle attracts attention.

bl

Michael Schaffer

unread,
Dec 23, 2008, 11:24:12 PM12/23/08
to
On Dec 23, 10:21 pm, Bob Lombard <thorsteinnos...@vermontel.net>
wrote:

Of course you are accusing me of something, asshole, and not just in a
subtle way. My contempt for that idiot has nothing to do with
"racism". Pretty much everyone here thinks he is an idiot who doesn't
know the first thing about audio and music but thinks his
"remasterings" of historical recordings are the greatest thing that
has happened since the dawn of recorded music (which he, finally,
"liberates from the audio").
I think you and your pal Harper are idiots, too, and that has nothing
to do with your "race" or "religion". Actually, the latter a little
bit."Ansermetniac" isn't even a religious hypocrite. As far as I can
tell, he doesn't see himself as a religious person. He is just stuck
in the racial corner based on what he perceives as racial separation
between him and non-"semitic" people. But since I don't see the
concept of "race" as relevant, that has no meaning for me.
But it does seem to have for you, which is very telling. Where do I
"walk like one, talk like one" when I just point out he is an idiot
who doesn't know the first thing about audio engineering? Many other
people here do. Is that an anti-semitic conspiracy or could it just be
that he really doesn't understand audio?
OTOH, when it comes to "walking like one, talking like one", you and
your friend Harper do remind me a lot of many old Nazis I knew in
Germany. You have the same self-centered and xenophobic outlook they
did. And you did actually grow up in a time and place where racism was
still legal - and you yourself didn't do anything about it.

But what does all that have to do with the subject and the Gestapo?
Pretty much nothing, except that you abuse that subject to try to take
yet another cheap shot at me.
But then you don't even begin to understand what a serious subject
that is. After all, your family wasn't affected by that. Mine was, and
several members of it did not survive the encounter with the Gestapo.
Those who did and who are still alive still suffer immensely from
that, more than 6 decades later. And then a little piece of crap like
you comes along and makes these stupid remarks.

Bob Harper

unread,
Dec 24, 2008, 1:42:18 AM12/24/08
to
Michael Schaffer wrote:
> On Dec 23, 10:21 pm, Bob Lombard <thorsteinnos...@vermontel.net>
(snip)

>> I am not accusing you of anything, Michael, just pointing out that the
>> 'walks like one, talks like one' principle attracts attention.
>>
>> bl
>
(snip)

> But it does seem to have for you, which is very telling. Where do I
> "walk like one, talk like one" when I just point out he is an idiot
> who doesn't know the first thing about audio engineering? Many other
> people here do. Is that an anti-semitic conspiracy or could it just be
> that he really doesn't understand audio?
> OTOH, when it comes to "walking like one, talking like one", you and
> your friend Harper do remind me a lot of many old Nazis I knew in
> Germany. You have the same self-centered and xenophobic outlook they
> did. And you did actually grow up in a time and place where racism was
> still legal - and you yourself didn't do anything about it.
>
(snip)

Wow, Bob, who woulda thunk Michael would Godwinize this thread so early
on. And I have to say that my power over him seems to be increasing; I
hadn't said anything and he still couldn't resist foaming at the mouth
in my general direction.

Bob Harper

Bob Lombard

unread,
Dec 24, 2008, 8:50:32 AM12/24/08
to

Your power is great. I am honored to be associated with you, even if
it's only in Michael's imagination. It's that tortured imagination that
created 'the club' of course.

Merry Christmas to you, Bob, and to Michael as well, though the red fog
may not lift from his mind long enough for him to appreciate the sentiment.

bl

Michael Schaffer

unread,
Dec 24, 2008, 10:45:15 AM12/24/08
to
> Bob Harper- Hide quoted text -
>
> - Show quoted text -

You apparently don't know what Godwin's Law actually is. The OT is
already about a subject related to Nazi Germany. However, I am not the
one who called another member names. Your buddy Lombard did. Are you
really that stupid that you can't see that?

Michael Schaffer

unread,
Dec 24, 2008, 10:49:53 AM12/24/08
to
> bl- Hide quoted text -

>
> - Show quoted text -

And a very merry Dies Natalis Solis Invicti to you, pagans.

Bob Lombard

unread,
Dec 24, 2008, 11:31:00 AM12/24/08
to

Show me where that occurred, Michael?

bl

Michael Schaffer

unread,
Dec 24, 2008, 12:10:39 PM12/24/08
to
On Dec 24, 11:31 am, Bob Lombard <thorsteinnos...@vermontel.net>
> bl- Hide quoted text -

>
> - Show quoted text -

You know exactly where that "occurred", you sanctimonious asshole. You
can call people names without mentioning the actual "name". Which you
do all the time because you know from former discussions that I come
from a family which was very badly affected by the NS regime, and it
pleases your little perverted character to trample around on that.
What a nasty piece of human crap you are.

Bob Harper

unread,
Dec 24, 2008, 12:10:29 PM12/24/08
to
Bob Lombard wrote:
(snip)

> Your power is great. I am honored to be associated with you, even if
> it's only in Michael's imagination. It's that tortured imagination that
> created 'the club' of course.
>
> Merry Christmas to you, Bob, and to Michael as well, though the red fog
> may not lift from his mind long enough for him to appreciate the sentiment.
>
> bl

And Merry Christmas to you and to all. And all the best for 2009.

Bob Harper

Bob Harper

unread,
Dec 24, 2008, 12:35:04 PM12/24/08
to
Well, I suppose Michael has a (half)point. It could be argued that you
hinted, but it's still the case that he used the N-word first.

I am sorry members of his family suffered at the hands of the Gestapo,
but it does seem that blaming us is stretching the point a bit. And
obsessing about it now is surely unhealthy.

Bob Harper

Bob Lombard

unread,
Dec 24, 2008, 12:57:06 PM12/24/08
to

There's that red fog, again, afflicting your rational faculties. You win
though, Michael; I give up on you. I will killfile you, and ignore your
posts whenever they slide by the filter. 2009 has a better chance of
being a good year if you don't enter my thoughts.

bl

Allen

unread,
Dec 24, 2008, 1:01:41 PM12/24/08
to
Michael, this thread was reminded me why a couple of Bobs are in my
killfile.
Allen

Bob Lombard

unread,
Dec 24, 2008, 1:20:47 PM12/24/08
to
Allen wrote:

> Michael, this thread was reminded me why a couple of Bobs are in my
> killfile.
> Allen

Ah yes. I think I may have contradicted Allen once.

bl

Michael Schaffer

unread,
Dec 24, 2008, 1:26:45 PM12/24/08
to
On Dec 24, 12:57 pm, Bob Lombard <thorsteinnos...@vermontel.net>

If you would just stand by things you said - and which are there for
everyone to see and read, you may have overlooked that -, then you
wouldn;t be such a bad character. But making insinuations like you did
and then pretending to be wrongfully misunderstood - does it get any
more cowardly and hypocritic?

Bob Lombard

unread,
Dec 24, 2008, 3:58:55 PM12/24/08
to
Bob Harper wrote:

> Well, I suppose Michael has a (half)point. It could be argued that you
> hinted, but it's still the case that he used the N-word first.
>
> I am sorry members of his family suffered at the hands of the Gestapo,
> but it does seem that blaming us is stretching the point a bit. And
> obsessing about it now is surely unhealthy.
>
> Bob Harper

Suggesting that his actions could give 'hope' to those folks in Idaho
does not say that I believe Michael to be one of them. In fact I do not,
and have not, believed that. But I am not a strong enough Humanist to
continue any dialog with him. That's my deficiency, and I'm plenty old
enough to accept it. If you intend to persist, you are a very dedicated
converted Catholic. Most Catholics of that background (not counting
those who 'converted' so that their respective spouses could continue to
accept Communion) resemble Jesuits much more than Franciscans.

bl

Matthew B. Tepper

unread,
Dec 24, 2008, 4:37:24 PM12/24/08
to
Bob Lombard <thorste...@vermontel.net> appears to have caused the
following letters to be typed in news:d4v4l.5038$se4.2350@en-nntp-
03.dc1.easynews.com:

> Allen wrote:
>
>> Michael, this thread was reminded me why a couple of Bobs are in my
>> killfile.
>

> Ah yes. I think I may have contradicted Allen once.

No you didn't.

Bob Harper

unread,
Dec 24, 2008, 5:37:09 PM12/24/08
to
Bob Lombard wrote:
>
> Suggesting that his actions could give 'hope' to those folks in Idaho
> does not say that I believe Michael to be one of them. In fact I do not,
> and have not, believed that. But I am not a strong enough Humanist to
> continue any dialog with him. That's my deficiency, and I'm plenty old
> enough to accept it. If you intend to persist, you are a very dedicated
> converted Catholic. Most Catholics of that background (not counting
> those who 'converted' so that their respective spouses could continue to
> accept Communion) resemble Jesuits much more than Franciscans.
>
> bl
Well, to tell the tuth I'm partial to the Dominicans (they serve the
parish to which I belong).

Bob Harper

Christian Hoskins

unread,
Dec 24, 2008, 5:45:46 PM12/24/08
to
Good God, what's going on here? I came here to read about Carl Orff
and instead find two people, Mr Lombard and Mr Schaffer, trading some
of most unpleasant insults I have read in over a decade of accessing
internet forums. Are you for real? If so , you really need to read
what you've written in the cold light of day and wonder if that's how
you want the world to remember you both. If it's a kind of private
joke, perhaps you could carry on in private and allow some of these
threads actually have some residual value.

Bob Lombard

unread,
Dec 24, 2008, 6:16:25 PM12/24/08
to

Interesting. In my opinion and intention I have insulted nobody, and
that includes Michael. I am somewhat surprised that pointing out
potential impressions and the effects of misguided emotions constitutes
insult, but apparently that is the case. In any event, those missives
will cease. God love you all.

bl

Bob Lombard

unread,
Dec 24, 2008, 6:26:12 PM12/24/08
to

It likely has no modern relevance, but the Dominicans (as I understand
it) administered the Inquisition. It's hard for this Humanist to stomach
that, though God can.

Phil Caron

unread,
Dec 24, 2008, 7:05:01 PM12/24/08
to
"Bob Lombard" <thorste...@vermontel.net> wrote in message
news:myz4l.15920$9i5....@en-nntp-07.dc1.easynews.com...

So, you're saying Harper is an Inquisitionist, eh? How insulting!

- Phil Caron


Bob Harper

unread,
Dec 24, 2008, 7:25:20 PM12/24/08
to

Well, it *was* a few centuries ago. I do, however, plead guilty to being
inquisi*tive*, but not to being an inquisi*tor*.

Bob Harper

Bob Harper

unread,
Dec 24, 2008, 7:25:55 PM12/24/08
to
See previous reply.

Bob Harper

edo...@gmail.com

unread,
Dec 24, 2008, 8:22:26 PM12/24/08
to
On Dec 25, 2:05 am, "Phil Caron" <vladi...@vermontel.net> wrote:
> "Bob Lombard" <thorsteinnos...@vermontel.net> wrote in message

But it's true! He's torturing Schaffer!

Matthew B. Tepper

unread,
Dec 24, 2008, 9:52:51 PM12/24/08
to
Bob Harper <bob.h...@comcast.net> appears to have caused the following
letters to be typed in news:AQy4l.5279$se4....@en-nntp-03.dc1.easynews.com:

> Well, to tell the truth I'm partial to the Dominicans (they serve the

> parish to which I belong).

They make pretty good baseball players, too.

Michael Schaffer

unread,
Dec 25, 2008, 12:04:07 AM12/25/08
to

Actually, if you read my first post in this thread, there is some
residual value in that and some points which could lead to a mildly
interesting discussion. And it ended with the observation that we
should all be glad that we we are not in the kind of situation Orff
and his contemporaries found themselves in. There was no reason for
Lombard to twist and turn what I said into a vicious and hardly hidden
personal attack against me. Except that he is a vicious and twisted
character. So if you find this turn of events unpleasant, you can lay
that at his doorstep. My post merely contained a few observations
about Orff's situation and no personal attacks, veiled or not, against
anybody here.

Michael Schaffer

unread,
Dec 25, 2008, 12:06:27 AM12/25/08
to
On Dec 24, 3:58 pm, Bob Lombard <thorsteinnos...@vermontel.net> wrote:
> Bob Harper wrote:
> > Well, I suppose Michael has a (half)point. It could be argued that you
> > hinted, but it's still the case that he used the N-word first.
>
> > I am sorry members of his family suffered at the hands of the Gestapo,
> > but it does seem that blaming us is stretching the point a bit. And
> > obsessing about it now is surely unhealthy.
>
> > Bob Harper
>
> Suggesting that his actions could give 'hope' to those folks in Idaho
> does not say that I believe Michael to be one of them. In fact I do not,
> and have not, believed that. But I am not a strong enough Humanist to
> continue any dialog with him.

There was never any "dialog" with you here. You call your completely
uncalled for attacks "dialog", you asshole? And you aren't a
"humanist" at all, weak or strong. Who do you think you are kidding -
except perhaps yourself?

Peter T. Daniels

unread,
Dec 25, 2008, 12:11:16 AM12/25/08
to
> that, though God can.-

The Domini canes -- 'hounds of God'.

Steering back toward a topic, the Franciscan provice in St. Louis kept
cutting the music budget of St. Peter's in the Loop (Chicago), whose
choir, under the direction of a musician-musicologist, did superb work
in many varieties of chant, including many styles appertaining to
Eastern churches -- they released many CDs under the aegis of the
educational-religious complex at St. John's, Minnesota. Said director
is now at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Pittsburgh. He was
responsible for the music for Pope JP2's last visit to NYC (and had
been a finalist for the position at St. Patrick's Cathedral that went
to Johannes Somary, who a few years later no longer held that post)..

Peter T. Daniels

unread,
Dec 25, 2008, 12:12:49 AM12/25/08
to

You must not be widely read -- their slanging match, though rather
distasteful, is quite mild compared to some that can be found in
internet forums ... including these very ones.

Bob Harper

unread,
Dec 25, 2008, 1:29:42 AM12/25/08
to
Peter T. Daniels wrote:
(snip)

>
> Steering back toward a topic, the Franciscan provice in St. Louis kept
> cutting the music budget of St. Peter's in the Loop (Chicago), whose
> choir, under the direction of a musician-musicologist, did superb work
> in many varieties of chant, including many styles appertaining to
> Eastern churches -- they released many CDs under the aegis of the
> educational-religious complex at St. John's, Minnesota. Said director
> is now at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Pittsburgh. He was
> responsible for the music for Pope JP2's last visit to NYC (and had
> been a finalist for the position at St. Patrick's Cathedral that went
> to Johannes Somary, who a few years later no longer held that post)..

Can't trust those Franciscans, can you? :) OTOH, I am about to head to
Midnight Mass at Holy Rosary (the Dominican parish I mentioned earlier)
where the pre-Mass carols and the Mass itself will be sung by Cantores
in Ecclesia under the direction of Dean Applegate (he of the Byrd
Festival--http://www.byrdfestival.org/). Victoria tonight, I think, as
well as Gregorian Chant. They're *very* good.

Bob Harper

Peter T. Daniels

unread,
Dec 25, 2008, 12:58:13 PM12/25/08
to
On Dec 25, 1:29 am, Bob Harper <bob.har...@comcast.net> wrote:
> Peter T. Daniels wrote:
>
> (snip)
>
> > Steering back toward a topic, the Franciscan provice in St. Louis kept
> > cutting the music budget of St. Peter's in the Loop (Chicago), whose
> > choir, under the direction of a musician-musicologist, did superb work
> > in many varieties of chant, including many styles appertaining to
> > Eastern churches -- they released many CDs under the aegis of the
> > educational-religious complex at St. John's, Minnesota. Said director
> > is now at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Pittsburgh. He was
> > responsible for the music for Pope JP2's last visit to NYC (and had
> > been a finalist for the position at St. Patrick's Cathedral that went
> > to Johannes Somary, who a few years later no longer held that post)..
>
> Can't trust those Franciscans, can you? :) OTOH, I am about to head to

Well, it was the St. Louis Jesuits that dragged the guitars into
church. Maybe there's just something about St. Louis. Or St. Louis
Catholics -- after all, Slatkin did a superb job there for years.

Bob Harper

unread,
Dec 25, 2008, 1:35:37 PM12/25/08
to
Peter T. Daniels wrote:
> On Dec 25, 1:29 am, Bob Harper <bob.har...@comcast.net> wrote:
>> Peter T. Daniels wrote:
>>
>> (snip)
>>
>>> Steering back toward a topic, the Franciscan provice in St. Louis kept
>>> cutting the music budget of St. Peter's in the Loop (Chicago), whose
>>> choir, under the direction of a musician-musicologist, did superb work
>>> in many varieties of chant, including many styles appertaining to
>>> Eastern churches -- they released many CDs under the aegis of the
>>> educational-religious complex at St. John's, Minnesota. Said director
>>> is now at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Pittsburgh. He was
>>> responsible for the music for Pope JP2's last visit to NYC (and had
>>> been a finalist for the position at St. Patrick's Cathedral that went
>>> to Johannes Somary, who a few years later no longer held that post)..
>> Can't trust those Franciscans, can you? :) OTOH, I am about to head to
>
> Well, it was the St. Louis Jesuits that dragged the guitars into
> church.

Please, please, don't remind me.

Bob Harper

patmp...@gmail.com

unread,
Jan 6, 2009, 6:20:31 AM1/6/09
to
On Dec 24 2008, 8:31 am, Premise Checker <chec...@panix.com> wrote:
> Carl Orff, the composer who lived a monstrous liehttp://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/mus...
> [Thanks to Sarah for this.]
>
> December 19, 2008
>
> The creator of Carmina Burana hid an ugly secret about his betrayal of a
> friend under the Third Reich
>
> Richard Morrison
>
> The opening line of Carmina Burana - "O Fortuna!" - could hardly be
> more apt. Few composers felt themselves more at the mercy of
> capricious gods and twists of fate than its composer, Carl Orff. He
> was never a diehard Nazi; indeed, he looked with disdain on their
> oafish cultural values. Far from espousing the hounding of "inferior
> races", he was fascinated by jazz and by what today we would call
> world music. Yet he rose to become one of the Third Reich's top
> musicians.
>
> According to one of his four wives, he "found it impossible to love"
> and "despised people". Yet in Carmina Burana he created the world's
> jolliest musical celebration of boozing, feasting and generally
> enjoying the sins of other people's flesh.
>
> He turned his back on his own teenage daughter, who adored him. "He
> didn't want me in his married life," she recalls sadly. Yet he was
> (and, in some quarters, still is) adulated in educational circles
> for his Schulwerksystem of teaching music to young children through
> rhythm and gesture--a system he originally intended to flog to the
> Hitler Youth movement. It is still used around the world,
> particularly (and paradoxically) to help children with cerebral
> palsy, who would probably not be alive if Hitler's Germany had
> triumphed.
>
> A connoisseur of Greek drama, and a perceptive scholar who edited
> and performed Monteverdi long before the rest of the world
> rediscovered the Baroque genius, he talked eloquently about the need
> for people to express themselves through art if they were to become
> "complete" human beings. Yet one of his wives says that he himself
> was full of "demonic forces" and would "wake up screaming at night".
> He used people shamelessly. Yet, as another wife puts it, "all his
> life he wanted forgiveness" for the guilt that consumed him. He was
> obsessed by the myth of Orpheus, the musician who descended into the
> Underworld. "Just like Orff himself," his biographer notes.
>
> All this, and an act of treachery hidden until now, is revealed in
> an exceptional film by Tony Palmer, fittingly called O Fortuna,
> that's just out on DVD and will be broadcast on Sky Arts 2 in late
> January. The timing is perfect. Next month, a spectacular touring
> production of Carmina Burana rolls up at the O venue in the former
> Millennium Dome. For the past four decades this bawdy oratorio has
> been performed somewhere in the world every day of every year. But
> this show is likely to eclipse all previous stagings. Besides a
> chorus and orchestra of 250, it has fireworks, giant puppets, cannon
> effects, and, according to its producer, Franz Abraham, "erotic
> scenes with naked girls imitating an orgy".
>
> For once it can be truthfully said that the composer would have
> loved it. And the show, which has already played to a million people
> on its 13-year global journey, is expected to attract huge audiences
> - upwards of 10,000 on each of its two nights.
>
> I doubt whether many of those 20,000 punters, innocently enjoying
> this tub-thumping, thigh-slapping medley of pulsating choral numbers
> (based, incongruously, on a collection of poems by 13th-century
> monks, discovered in a monastery in Orff's beloved Bavaria) will be
> aware that the piece had its premiere, in 1937, at a Nazi Party
> gathering. Nor that its creator had a dark secret that Palmer's film
> highlights for the first time.
>
> Orff had a friend called Kurt Huber, an academic who had helped him
> with librettos. Huber was also a brave man. During the war he
> founded the Munich unit of Die Weisse Rose (The White Rose), the
> German resistance movement. In February 1943 he and other Resistance
> members were arrested by the Gestapo, tortured and publicly hanged.
> Orff happened to call at Huber's house the day after his arrest.
> Huber's wife (whom Palmer tracked down for his film) begged Orff to
> use his influence to help her husband. But Orff's only thought was
> for his own position. If his friendship with Huber came out, he told
> her, he would be "ruined". Huber's wife never saw Orff again.
>
> Two years later, after Germany's surrender, Orff himself was
> interrogated--by an American intelligence officer who had to
> establish whether Orff could be "denazi-fied". That would allow Orff
> (among other things) to collect the massive royalties from Carmina
> Burana. The American asked Orff if he could think of a single thing
> he had done to stand up to Hitler, or to distance himself from the
> policies of the Third Reich? Orff had done nothing of that kind. So
> he made up a brazen lie. Knowing that anyone who might contradict
> him was likely to be dead, he told Jenkins that he had co-founded
> Die Weisse Rose with his friend, Kurt Huber. He was believed--or at
> least, not sufficiently disbelieved to have his denazification
> delayed.
>
> And then, as Palmer's film reveals, Orff did the most astonishing
> thing. He sat down and wrote a fictitious letter to his dead friend,
> in effect apologising for his behaviour. He craved Huber's
> forgiveness--even, it seems, from beyond the grave.
>
> In my mind Orff's tangled career raises two fundamental questions.
> The first is, how would we have behaved in his circumstances? Before
> the Nazis endorsed Carmina Burana, he had been penniless. He was
> seduced by the rank and riches he suddenly acquired--far too
> seduced to bite the thuggish hands that fed him. And unlike many
> other German geniuses, he loved Bavaria too much to think of
> emigrating (even though, with a Jewish grandparent, he was taking a
> colossal risk of being exposed by staying).
>
> So he acquiesced. He even wrote new incidental music to
> Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, so that the famous score by
> the Jewish composer Mendelssohn could be banished. Then, at the end
> of the war, he panicked and told a dreadful lie to get himself off
> the hook. From the comfortable perspective of 60 years' distance,
> it's easy to damn his cowardice and self-preserving mendacity. But
> millions behave with equal spinelessness in offices round the world
> every day, when the only danger is losing a coveted promotion or
> having to shoulder responsibility for some cockup.
>
> The second question is, should any of this affect our appreciation
> of Carmina Burana, with its proto-minimalist rhythmic energy and its
> alluring exhortation for us to eat, drink, fornicate and be merry,
> because tomorrow we die?
>
> After all, if we disqualified from our approval all art commissioned
> by montrous regimes or nasty patrons, or created by appalling
> people, there would be very few Old Masters in our galleries, and no
> Wagner in our opera houses.
>
> "The fact that the Nazis liked Orff's music is not in itelf proof
> that Orff was a Nazi, or approved of their methods," Abraham says.
> "He simply lived in that generation of Germans when, unfortunately,
> everybody had a connection of some sort with the Nazis. Even the
> so-called good guys. Look at Günter Grass. Two years ago he shocked
> everyone by revealing that he was in the SS." At least one gets the
> feeling that Orff, waking up screaming in the night, knew exactly
> how badly he had behaved.
>
> The final irony in his twisted and compromised life? When he died in
> 1982 this most unsaintly of men ended up, as he wished, buried in a
> monastery--just like the scurrilous medieval poems that brought him
> such fame.
>
> O Fortuna is available on DVD atwww.voiceprint.co.ukorwww.tonypalmerdvd.com.CarminaBurana is at the O2 Arena, London SE10
> (www. theO2.co.uk; 0844 8560202), on Jan 17, 18

I refuse to give consideration to the politics of the composer. My
world of music is free of such things. If you want to play that game,
fine, go ahead.

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages