Heinrich Sutermeister

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Heinrich Sutermeister (born August 12, 1910 in Feuerthalen ; † March 16, 1995 in Vaux-sur-Morges ) was a Swiss composer who was best known for his operas.

Heinrich Sutermeister 1982


Heinrich Sutermeister came from a reformed rectory; his hometown was Zofingen . His father Friedrich was the son of the teacher and fairy tale collector Otto Sutermeister ; his mother's name was Marie Hunziker.

Sutermeister wrote down his first attempts at composition from 1925 to 1928. After attending the humanistic grammar school in Basel , he first studied history and philology or German and Romance studies at the University of Basel (and in Paris ). In 1929 and 1930 he met the works of Claude Debussy and Arthur Honegger there . This encounter, his studies of philosophy at the Sorbonne and finally an exchange of letters with Walter Courvoisier in Munich determined him to devote himself entirely to music.

From 1931 to 1934 Sutermeister graduated from the State Academy of Music in Munich . There he was a student of Carl Orff , Hans Pfitzner , Walter Courvoisier ( harmony and counterpoint ), Gustav Geierhaas , Li Stadelmann , Hugo Röhr ( conducting ) and Fritz Büchtger (Absolutorium).

Freelance composer

After his practical apprenticeship from 1934 to 1935 as a solo répétiteur at the Stadttheater Bern , he lived as a freelance composer from 1935 onwards. "Sutermeister found his own musical language early on, and his predilection for literary opera was reflected in his sensitive handling of the literary models."

In 1936 Radio Bern broadcast his radio opera The Black Spider for the first time . In addition to radio and television operas, works for orchestra, solo singing, choir, chamber and concert music as well as his operas followed.

His breakthrough came with his Shakespeare opera Romeo and Juliet , which premiered in 1940 at the Dresden State Opera (Semperoper) under the direction of Karl Böhm and was soon translated into five languages. The opera Die Zauberinsel followed in 1942 , also premiered in the Semperoper under the direction of Böhm. On behalf of Heinz Tietjen and under the influence of the war years, the opera Niobe was premiered in 1946 in the Stadttheater Zurich and in 1948 the opera Raskolnikoff at the Royal Stockholm Opera. Raskolnikoff "found its way into La Scala in Milan under the scenic and musical direction of Issay Dobrowen ". The libretto for Raskolnikoff was written by his brother Peter Sutermeister . In 1951 his opera The Red Boot premiered. Sutermeister's most important choral work, Missa da Requiem , was performed in 1952 by Herbert von Karajan in Rome. This was followed by other music-dramatic works, such as the opera Titus Feuerfuchs , which premiered at the Stadttheater Basel in 1958 and was also performed at the 1958 Brussels World's Fair . In 1967 Madame Bovary with Anneliese Rothenberger in the title role was premiered at Zurich Opera House .

From 1958 to 1980 Sutermeister was President of the Swiss Copyright Society Mechan license (from 1980 SUISA ). From 1963 to 1975 he taught free composition at the Hanover University of Music . In 1985 Sutermeister's last opera König Bérenger I was premiered at the Cuvilliés Theater in Munich under the musical direction of Wolfgang Sawallisch .

Sutermeister composed ten very successful operas , a ballet, two divertimenti , three chamber serenades , several instrumental concerts, chamber music works, cantatas , choirs and songs . "His compositional work, in which he follows his role model Giuseppe Verdi and suggestions from Carl Orff and Werner Egk from his Munich student days, shows an unmistakable dramatic instinct, and his vocal oeuvre also has a pronounced literary taste."

His music manuscripts are in the Zurich Central Library . In 2010 he was honored with a stamp on his 100th birthday, together with Rolf Liebermann .


How we want to make the world of tones serve our sense of the present should remain our most personal concern. But here, too, it is important to musically warm up and illuminate the image of the human being. Even today we composers have a tremendous power which we, in faithful hands, have mastered and wisely exercised. Let us be aware of this responsibility and try to use the power of tones to loosen up and resolve the tension in short-sighted positions of power and group formations, which dominate the current world bid.


  • Divertimento No. 1 for string orchestra, 1936, rev. 1960
  • Max and Moritz , ballet after Wilhelm Busch
  • The Black Spider , radio opera based on Jeremias Gotthelf , 1936, staged version 1949
  • Romeo and Juliet , opera after William Shakespeare , 1940
  • The Magic Island , opera based on Shakespeare, 1942
  • 1st piano concerto , 1943
  • Niobe , monodrama, 1946
  • Capriccio for solo clarinet, 1946
  • Raskolnikoff , opera based on Fyodor Michailowitsch Dostojewski , 1948
  • The Alps , Fantasy on Swiss Folk Songs, 1948
  • The Red Boot , Opera, 1951
  • 2nd piano concerto , 1953
  • Missa da Requiem , 1953, world premiere: RAI Milan, soprano: Elisabeth Schwarzkopf , conductor: Herbert von Karajan
  • 1st cello concerto , 1954–55
  • Titus Feuerfuchs or Die Liebe, Tricks und Wig , burlesque opera, 1958
  • Seraphine or The Dumb Pharmacist , Opera buffa based on a text by Rabelais , 1959
  • 3rd piano concerto , 1961–62
  • The Canterville Ghost , play with music for television based on Oscar Wilde , 1962–63
  • Poème funèbre - En mémoire de Paul Hindemith , for string orchestra, 1965
  • Omnia ad Unum , Cantata, 1965–66
  • Madame Bovary , opera after Gustave Flaubert , 1967
  • Sérénade pour Montreux , for chamber orchestra, 1970
  • 2. Cello Concerto , 1971, composed for Esther Nyffenegger , who played it under Wolfgang Sawallisch in 1975 in Geneva and in 1989 on the day the Wall fell in 1989 in the concert hall on Gendarmenplatz in East Berlin
  • Te Deum , 1975
  • Clarinet Concerto , 1975–76
  • Consolatio philosophiae , Scène dramatique, 1979
  • King Bérenger I , opera based on The King dies by Eugène Ionesco , 1985
  • Gloria for mixed choir, soprano solo and orchestra, 1988



  • Ingrid Bigler-Marschall: Heinrich Sutermeister . In: Andreas Kotte (Ed.): Theater Lexikon der Schweiz . Volume 3, Chronos, Zurich 2005, ISBN 3-0340-0715-9 , p. 1781 f.
  • Günter Birkner: Heinrich Sutermeister, the way of the stage composer . 169th New Year's sheet of the Allgemeine Musikgesellschaft Zürich for 1985. Zürich 1985 (with catalog raisonné).
  • Charlotte Dach: Heinrich Sutermeister. In: The Bund . August 12, 1960.
  • Diether de la Motte : Heinrich Sutermeister. In: The choir conductor. April 1960.
  • Hans Ehringer: Three conversations with Heinrich Sutermeister. In: Swiss music newspaper . Volume 98, No. 9 (September 1958).
  • Henri Jaton: Heinrich Sutermeister, compositeur lyrique. In: Swiss music newspaper. Volume 98, No. 9 (September 1958).
  • Dino Larese : Heinrich Sutermeister. Amriswil 1972.
  • Dino Larese: meeting with Swiss composers . Amriswil 1974. pp. 49-57.
  • SUISA (Hrsg.): Swiss composers of our time: biographies, catalog raisonnés with discography and bibliography. Amadeus, Winterthur 1993, ISBN 978-3-905049-05-3 .

Web links

Commons : Heinrich Sutermeister  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f estate directory (PDF; 118 kB). Music department of the Zurich Central Library.
  2. Christine Wyss: Sutermeister, Heinrich. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  3. ^ Heinrich Sutermeister , biography and catalog raisonné on the Schott-Verlag website .
  4. Ernst Kern : Seeing - Thinking - Acting of a surgeon in the 20th century. ecomed, Landsberg am Lech 2000, ISBN 3-609-20149-5 , p. 325 f. and 336.