Udo Zimmermann

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Udo Zimmermann, 2006, photo: Astrid Ackermann

Udo Zimmermann (born October 6, 1943 in Dresden ) is a German composer , conductor and artistic director . He lives in Dresden.


From 1954 to 1962 Zimmermann was a member of the Dresdner Kreuzchor under Rudolf Mauersberger , who supervised the first compositions and performed them with the choir. At this time, his aesthetic "look inward, also independent of the Christian search for meaning" strengthened. After graduating from high school, he studied composition with Johannes Paul Thilman at the Dresden Music Academy , as well as conducting (with Rudolf Neuhaus ) and singing . He was in 1968 a master student at Günter Kochan at the German Academy of Arts in Berlin and worked for two years as assistant to the musical theater director Walter Felsenstein . In 1970 he became dramaturge for contemporary music theater at the Dresden State Opera , where he worked until 1985. From 1976 he was a lecturer and from 1979 professor for composition at the Dresden Music Academy; his students included Annette Schlünz , Caspar René Hirschfeld and Jan Trieder.

In 1974 Zimmermann founded the Dresden "Studio Neue Musik", from which the Dresden Center for Contemporary Music emerged in 1986 in Dresden- Loschwitz. As a research center and organizer of concerts and festivals ( Dresden Days of Contemporary Music ) it gained an international reputation in the scene of Has acquired new music . In 2004 he transferred it to the European Center for the Arts in Hellerau , which he was director until 2008.

From 1985 to 1990 Zimmermann headed the workshop for contemporary music theater at the Bonn Opera. From 1990 to 2001 he was artistic director of the Leipzig Opera ; Here, too, his commitment was particularly focused on the music theater of the 20th century, numerous world premieres a. a. von Karlheinz Stockhausen , Dieter Schnebel and Jörg Herchet took place during this time, and the opera house received several awards.

From 1997 to 2011 Zimmermann was the artistic director of the musica viva series of Bayerischer Rundfunk and premiered 175 works here in the 14 years of his career. From 2001 to 2003 he was general manager of the Deutsche Oper Berlin . From 2004 to 2008, as the founding director of the European Center for the Arts Hellerau u. a. In collaboration with the choreographer William Forsythe, the historic Festspielhaus Hellerau became an important location for the contemporary arts.

In 1993 and 1995 Zimmermann was Composer in Residence at the Salzburg Festival . As a conductor he made guest appearances from 1979 a. a. with the Berliner Philharmoniker , Wiener Symphoniker , Gewandhausorchester , Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks , Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin , NDR Sinfonieorchester , Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich and at the Staatskapelle Dresden . He also worked at the opera houses in Vienna, Hamburg, Munich and Bonn.

In 1983 Zimmermann was appointed a full member of the GDR Academy of the Arts . From 1985 to 1989 he was a board member of the Association of Composers and Musicologists of the GDR . Zimmermann is a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of the Arts , whose Music Section he was director from 2003 to 2008, of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts , the Free Academy of Arts in Leipzig (President from 1992 to 1997), the Saxon Academy of the Arts (President from 2008 to 2011), the Free Academy of the Arts Hamburg and the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts . From 1996 to 2001 he was President of the Saxon Cultural Senate. In 2008 he was appointed Officier des Ordre des Arts et des Lettres .

Zimmermann has been married to Saskia, b. Leistner. His first marriage (1967–1970) with Kristina, b. Man, comes from a daughter, the actress Claudia Michelsen ; his second marriage (1970–2007) with Elżbieta , geb. Holtorp, sons Robert and Romeo Alexander descend.

Compositional creation

Zimmermann's main focus is musical theater , he wrote several operas, of which the White Rose (1986) achieved international success through the Scholl siblings; with almost 200 productions since its premiere, it is one of the most frequently performed contemporary operas. The aesthetic of silence here takes on the expression of the abstract and calls for the individual to become aware of and return to himself, against the concealment of the Nazi era and as an appeal for a future society that is open to the world. Further works of this genre are u. a. Levin's Mill (based on the novel by Johannes Bobrowski ), The Shoe and the Flying Princess (based on a fairy tale by Peter Hacks ) and The Wondrous Shoemaker's Wife (based on Federico García Lorca ). Zimmermann also writes chamber music as well as vocal and orchestral works. From a stylistic point of view, Zimmermann is counted as part of New Music, his musical range of expression is diverse and is based on the respective plastic implementation of the compositional task. After a twelve-year creative break due to his extensive duties as artistic director, Zimmermann has only been active as a composer again since 2009. a. with two solo concerts for cellist Jan Vogler (2009) and violinist Elena Denisova (2013).


Works (selection)

Vocal music

  • Sonetti Amorosi (1966)
  • A witness of love that conquers death. Chants for soprano and chamber orchestra based on Tadeusz Ròzewicz (1972)
  • Psalm der Nacht, for sixteen-part female choir, male voices, percussion and organ (1976)
  • Hymn to the Sun (1977)
  • Pax questuosa ( The plaintive peace ) for solos, three choirs and orchestra (1982)
  • Give light to my eyes or I fall asleep to death (1986)
  • I am a calling voice, for solos, three choirs, children's choir and orchestra (1996/1997)

Stage works (operas)

Instrumental music

  • Dramatic Impressions (1963)
  • L'Homme (1970)
  • See my eyes (1970)
  • Mutazoni per orchestra (1973)
  • Sinfonia come un grande Lamento (1977)
  • Songerie pour orchester de chamber (1982)
  • Canticum marianum. Music for 12 cellos (1984)
  • My God, who is drumming there? Reflections for Orchestra (1986)
  • Nouveaux Divertissements d'après Rameau pour cor et orchester de chamber (1988)
  • Dans la marche (1994)
  • Songs from an island. Concerto for violoncello and orchestra. For Jan Vogler (2009)
  • Brahms Fanfare (2010)
  • Concerto for violin and orchestra. For Elena Denisova (2013)

Film and radio music

  • An April has 30 days (1978)
  • Morning (1980)
  • So Speaks Life (1981)
  • The Generals (1986)


  • Frank Geißler (Ed.): You see what you hear. Udo Zimmermann on music and theater . Reclam, Leipzig 2003, ISBN 3-379-00810-9 .


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Biographical data of Udo Zimmermann in: Who is Who - The German Who's Who 2010/2011 . 50th edition, Schmidt-Römhild, Verlagsgruppe Beleke, Lübeck 2010, ISBN 978-3-7950-2050-7 .
  2. Udo Zimmermann in conversation with Attila Kornel, February 9, 2015, quoted from: Attila Kornel: “Deep below us only silence.” - The aesthetics of silence in Udo Zimmermann's chamber opera “White Rose”. In: DIE TONKUNST, magazine for classical music and musicology. Vol. 11, No. 3, July 2017, pp. 368–377.
  3. ^ Udo Zimmermann received an award after the musica viva final concert. nmz-Online, July 13, 2011.
  4. Attila Kornel: “'Tief unter uns nur Schweigen .'– The aesthetics of silence in Udo Zimmermann's chamber opera' White Rose '”, in: DIE TONKUNST, magazine for classical music and musicology, vol. 11, no. 3, July 2017 , Pp. 368-377.