Willy Burkhard

by popularity
Serenade for Flute and ClarinetSerenade, Op.71Sonata for Viola Solo, Op.59Variationen über Haßler'sche Choralsätze, Op.28
Willy Burkhard (17 April 1900 – 18 June 1955) was a Swiss composer and academic teacher, influential in both capacities. He taught music theory at the Berne Conservatory and the Zürich Conservatory. His works include an opera, oratorios, cantatas, and many instrumental genres from piano pieces to symphonies.
Burkhard was born in Evilard, Canton of Bern. He attended and graduated from a teachers' training college Evangelisches Lehrerseminar Muristalden [de]. He also study with Ernst Graf, organist at the Berner Münster. He moved to Leipzig to study piano with Robert Teichmüller and composition with Sigfrid Karg-Elert. After Leipzig, he moved on to Munich to study with Walter Courvoisier and later to Paris to work with Max d'Ollone.
From 1924, he began teaching composition, theory and the piano in Berne. He was appointed professor at the Berne Conservatory [de] in 1928. He conducted several choirs and small orchestras there. In 1932 he was struck with tuberculosis, and was compelled to live for several years in Montana and Davos. During that time, he turned more towards composition. He settled in Zürich in 1942 and taught composition and music theory at the Zürich Conservatory, where his students included Klaus Huber, Rudolf Kelterborn, Ernst Pfiffner, Armin Schibler and Ernst Widmer [de]. In 1950 he received a prize from the Schweizerischer Tonkünstlerverein (Swiss Association of Musicians). He died in Zürich in 1955 at the age of 55.
Burkhard published 98 works with Opus numbers, and left a large amount of unpublished works held as manuscripts by the Paul Sacher Foundation [de]. He began to compose in late-Romantic style. His personal style developed from 1930, comparable to Paul Hindemith and Frank Martin. Late in life, he used some features of twelve-tone composition, but remained within tonality. He was interested to compose for voices, and regarded for renovated sacred music.
Burkhard is known for sacred choral music, including oratorios Das Gesicht Jesajas (Isaiah's vision) and Das Jahr (The year), and the cantata Die Sintflut (The Flood). He composed an opera, Die Schwarze Spinne based on Gotthelf's novella The Black Spider. He wrote song settings for solo voice and choirs, chamber music and piano works. His orchestral music was often dedicated to Paul Sacher's Sinfonietta, including a Violin Concerto, and two symphonies.