TT he Living Composers Project  

Zimmermann, Walter (b. April 15, 1949, Schwabach). German composer of mostly orchestral, chamber, choral, and vocal works that have been performed throughout the world.

Prof. Zimmermann studied oboe, piano and violin as a child and began composing at age twelve. He studied piano with Ernst Gröschel at the Fürth Gymnasium in the mid-1960s and composition with Werner Heider in Nuremberg from 1968–70 and attended the Kölner Kurse für Neue Musik from 1970–73, where he studied with Mauricio Kagel. He also studied electronic music with Otto E. Laske at the Institute of Sonology of the University of Utrecht, at the Jaap Kunst Center of Ethnology in Amsterdam and privately in Hamilton, New York in 1974.

His honors include the Förderpreis from the city of Cologne (1980), First Prize in the Ensemblia competition in Mönchengladbach (1981), a scholarship to stay at the Villa Massimo in Rome (1987), the Prix Italia (1988, for Die Blinden), and the Schneider-Schott Preis (1989).

Prof. Zimmermann is also active in other positions. He served as pianist in the ars nova ensemble nürnberg from 1968–70 and recorded folk music in Germany and the USA in 1976. He opened his Beginner Studios in Cologne in 1977 and gave regular concerts of new music there from 1977–84. He has contributed articles to numerous publications, has written the books Desert Plants (1976, conversations with 23 American composers) and Insel Musik (1981) and edited the collection Morton Feldman Essays (1985). In addition, he co-organized with Stefan Schädler the Anarchic Harmony Festival in Frankfurt/Main in 1992, a tribute to John Cage on his 80th birthday.

He taught composition at the Conservatoire Royal de Musique de Liège from 1980–84 and at the Musikhochschule Karlsruhe from 1990–92 and has taught as Professor für Komposition at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin since 1993. He also lectured twice at Darmstadt in 1982 and 1984 and once at the Royal Conservatory in Den Haag in 1988 and gave masterclasses at the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares in 2005.

He is married to the visual artist Nanne Meyer.


E-mail address:

Website: (mostly in German)


STAGE: Die Blinden (static drama, text by Maurice Maeterlinck [also German translation]), 6 female voices, 6 male voices, 2 bass flutes, contrabass clarinet, French horn, alto trombone, tenor tuba, 3 double basses, 1984; Hyperion (opera, libretto by D.E. Sattler, after Friedrich Hölderlin), soprano, high baritone, bass-baritone, writers, alto flute, oboe d'amore, basset horn, French horn, trombone (+ alto trombone), tenor tuba, harp, cimbalom, 2 percussion, string orchestra, projections, 1989–90

ORCHESTRAL: Akkordarbeit, piano, orchestra, tape, 1971; In Understanding Music the Sound Dies, small orchestra (3 flutes, 3 clarinets, 3 trombones, 2 pianos, percussion, 3 violins, 3 violas, 3 celli), 1974; Ländler Topographien, 1979; Saitenspiel, small orchestra (2 flutes, oboe, 2 clarinets, alto saxophone, 2 French horns, trumpet, 2 harps, guitar, mandolin, harpsichord, percussion, 2 celli, double bass), 1983; Ataraxia, piano, orchestra, 1988; Diastasis (a)/Diastema (b), 2 orchestras (without conductors), 1991–92; Clinamen IIV, 6 orchestral groups, 1996–2001; Seiltänze, cello, large orchestra (9 winds, 9 brass, harp, guitar, mandolin, Hackbrett [Austrian zither], celesta, timpani, crotales, glockenspiel, tubular bells, Almglocken, 2 percussion, 18 violins, 12 violas, 9 celli), 2002–04

CHAMBER MUSIC: Parabel, string quartet, 1965; Nothing But, piano, electronic organ, harpsichord, celesta, 1969; Gliss, 5 trombones, 1970; Einer ist Keiner, clarinet (+ soprano saxophone), trombone, viola, string quartet, live electronics, 1972; GazeBeduinenlied, oboe, tape, 1976, revised 1993; MandingoKoroharfe, mandolin, 1976, revised 1993; 10 Fränkische Tänze, string quartet, 1977; 25 Kärwa-Melodien, 2 clarinets, 1979; 20 Figuren-Tänze, 2 clarinets, trumpet, 2 violins, double bass, 1979 (also versions for clarinet, trumpet, violin, double bass, 2 percussion, 1979; clarinet, double bass, button accordion, 1994); 15 Zwiefache, guitar, 1979; Erd-Wasser-Luft-Töne, trombone, piano, musical glasses, 1979; Riuti (Rodungen und Wüstungen), percussion, 1980; Keuper, string quartet, 1980; Wolkenorte, harp, 1980; Ephemer, violin, cello, piano, 1981; Lösung, viola, cello, double bass, 1983; Glockenspiel (player also speaks texts by Jean-Paul, Peter Waterhouse), percussion, 1983, revised 2004; Klangfaden, bass clarinet, harp, glockenspiel (with sounding rock), 1983; In der Welt sein, French horn, 1981–84; Garten des Vergessens, violin, cello, piano, 1981–84; Emanatio/Conversio/Remeatio (Fragmente der Liebe), tenor saxophone/basset horn, string quartet, 1987; Lied im Wüstenvogelton, bass flute, piano, 1987; Geduld und Gelegenheit, cello, piano, 1987–89; The Echoing Green, violin, piano, 1989; Festina lente, string quartet, 1990; Distentio, violin, viola, cello, 1992; Schatten der Ideen 1, bass clarinet, bassoon, French horn, string quartet, double bass, 1992

CHAMBER MUSIC: Schatten der Ideen 2, violin, viola, cello, piano, 1993; Shadows of Cold Mountain 1, 3 tenor recorders, 1993; Ursache und Vorwitz, French horn, violin, cello, piano, percussion, tape, 1993–94; Schatten der Ideen 3, button accordion, 1994; Kindheitsblock (players also speak texts by Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari), viola, celesta, 1994; Neue Apologie des Buchstaben B, flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, 1994; Shadows of Cold Mountain 2, violin, piano, bandoneón, 2 sine generators, 1995; Parasit/Paraklet, clarinet, string quartet, tape, 1995; Northwest-Passage, E-flat clarinet, piccolo trumpet, violin, double bass, 2 percussion, 1995; Monade/Nomade, cello piccolo, 1995; El Baile de la Conquista, flute, oboe, percussion, 1996; Songs of Innocence and Experience, string quartet, tape, 1996, revised 2006–07; Irrgarten, bass zither, 1997; Shadows of Cold Mountain 3, flute, oboe, clarinet, 1997; Shadows of Cold Mountain 4, flute, tape, 1997; Dit (player also speaks), cello piccolo, tape, 1995–99; Quattro Coronati (player also speaks text by Martin Luther), cello piccolo, 1995–99; Die Sorge geht über den Fluss, violin, 1989–2001; Umbræ Idearum (Schatten der Ideen 4), piano, string quartet, 2001; Taula & Novo Ben (texts by Roman Llull, Biagio Marin), viola (+ voice), 2003; Verdrehtes LiedInterieur (texts by Michael Donhauser, Gottfried Benn), violin (+ voice), 2004

CHAMBER MUSIC: Fear of Symmetry (Schatten der Ideen 5), 2 ensembles (flute, oboe, bass clarinet, string quartet; clarinet, bassoon, French horn, string quartet), 2004–05; Sentenzen, guitar, 2005; Das irakische Alphabet (text by Joachim Sartorius), bass flute (+ voice), 2005; Aus der Bibliothek des MeeresDie Litanei des Auges (texts by Tomas Tranströmer, Cees Nooteboom), cello (+ voice), 2005–06; Das Gras der Kindheit (text by Fūad Rifka), 'ūd (lute)/Hackbrett (+ voice), 2006

CHORAL: Über die Dörfer (dramatic Lied, text by Peter Handke), soprano, mezzo-soprano, alto, high tenor, character tenor, high baritone, baritone, bass-baritone, 3 mixed choruses (24 voices each), large orchestra (73 players), 1985–86; Singbarer Rest (text by Edmond Jabès), 9 high female voices, sampler, 1993

VOCAL: Die spanische Reise des Oswald von Wolkenstein, baritone, nāy (flute), 'ūd, qānūn (zither), rabāb (2-string Arabic violin), percussion, 1976; Freunde (Schalkhäusser-Lieder), voice (+ piano), 1979–84; Gelassenheit (text by Meister Eckhart), alto, 2 guitars, portative organ, 1981–84; Selbstvergessen (text by Meister Eckhart), voice, obbligato noises, 1981–84; Spielwerk (text by Novalis), soprano, 6 flutes, 6 clarinets, 3 saxophones, 6 French horns, 6 celli, 3 percussion, 1982–84; The Paradoxes of Love (text by Hadewijch), soprano, soprano saxophone, 1987; The Edge (text by Robert Creeley), soprano/mezzo-soprano, violin, cello, piano, tape, 1994; Encore: Intervals (text by Robert Creeley), soprano/mezzo-soprano, snare drum, 2000; Echoes (text by Robert Creeley), soprano/mezzo-soprano, bass flute, basset horn, violin, viola, cello, 2000; Numbers/De Monade, Numero et Figura (text by Robert Creeley), soprano/mezzo-soprano, alto flute, oboe d'amore, basset horn, cimbalom, violin, viola, cello, tape, 2000; Himmeln (text by Felix-Philipp Ingold), soprano/mezzo-soprano, 2007

PIANO: As a Wife Has a Cow, piano 4 hands, 1970; Beginner's Mind, 1975, revised 1977; Abgeschiedenheit, 1982; Wüstenwanderung, piano (+ voice), 1986; When I'm 84, 1989; Ein wenig Grazie, 1994; Streifzüge 525 (player also speaks), 1995; Barn Snake Dance, 1996; Schatten der Ideen 6, 'Blaupause', 2001; AIMIDEAmicitias immortales, mortales inimicitias debere esse, 2001–02; The missing nail at the river, piano (+ toy piano), 2003–04; Romanska Bågar, piano left hand, 2004; Voces Abandonadas (primera serie), 2005; Voces Abandonadas (segunda serie), 2006

ORGAN: La Fleur Inverse, 2001

HARPSICHORD: Wanda Landowskas verschwundene Instrumente, MIDI-harpsichord (+ Hammerklavier), CD-ROM ad libitum, 1994


15 Zwiefache. Geoffrey Morris, guitar (ABC Classics)

Lied im Wüstenvogelton. Laura Chislett, bass flute (ABC Classics: 446 738)

Saitenspiel. Peter Eötvös/Ensemble Modern (BMG/RCA: 74321 73502)

Irrgarten. Georg Glasl, bass zither (Cavalli Records: CCD 115)

25 Kärwa-Melodien. Roger Heaton, clarinets (Clarinet Classics: CC0009)

Emanatio/Conversio/Remeatio (Fragmente der Liebe). (Col Legno: WWE 31890)

When I'm 84. Aki Takahashi, piano (EMI Classics: 6655, 2DJ-3828)

Wüstenwanderung. Daniel Seel, voice, piano (Hat Hut: hat[now]ART 139)

Lösung. (Landesmusikrat NRW/50 Jahre Neue Musik in NRW)

Schatten der Ideen 2; Ursache und Vorwitz; Distentio; Shadows of Cold Mountain 3. ensemble recherche (Mode Records: 111)

Wüstenwanderung; Geduld und Gelegenheit; Lied im Wüstenvogelton; The Echoing Green. Hermann Kretzschmar, voice, piano; Dietmar Wiesner, bass flute; Peter Rundel, violin; Michael Bach, cello (Mode Records: 150)

Festina lente. Arditti String Quartet (Montaigne Auvidis: MO 782036)

Die Blinden; Singbarer Rest. Manfred Schreier/Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart (Wergo: 6510)

The Echoing Green. (Wittener Tage für Neue Kammermusik 1990, documentation CD)

Shadows of Cold Mountain 3. (Wittener Tage für Neue Kammermusik 1998, documentation CD)

The Paradoxes of Love. Marcus Weiss, soprano saxophone (XOPF Records/Marcus Weiss: 10)

(Last updated on June 18, 2007)

Walter Zimmermann, Walter Zimmerman, Walter Zimermann, Walter Zimerman