Max E. Keller

(b. 19 March 1947, Aarau).

Swiss composer of mostly stage, orchestral, chamber, vocal, piano, and electroacoustic works that have been performed throughout the world; he is also active as a pianist.

Mr. Keller studied composition with Nicolaus A. Huber, Thomas Kessler, Helmut Lachenmann, and Hans Ulrich Lehmann, as well as German, history and musicology, on a scholarship from the Heinrich-Strobel-Stiftung.

Among his honours are the Kunstpreis from the Carl Heinrich Ernst-Kunststiftung in Winterthur (1997), the Berlin-Stipendium (1999) and a prize from the canton of Aargau (2001). He was also the representative of Switzerland at the Berlin Biennale in 1985.

As a pianist, he played free jazz and improvised music from 1966–73, featuring the piano with electric instruments, and has again worked as an improviser since 1985, with Trio Ampio and other ensembles.

He is also active in other positions. He has served as a music programmer at the Theater am Gleis in Winterthur since 1985 and served as president of the Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Neue Musik from 2007–10.


E-mail address:




JAWS 3 (scenic musical collage), 1979

Egonaus dem Leben eines Bankbeamten (mini-opera in 2 acts, libretto by Hans Suter), female actor, 2 male actors (any one + guitar), cello, fixed media, 1980–81 (also concert version of second overture as Egonia)

Fontamara (scenic cantata, text by Frans Denissen, after Ignazio Silone), 5 voices, 2 male actors, mixed chorus, small orchestra (17 players), 1984–86

Swissfiction (music-theatre work, text by Alex Gfeller), 4 male actors, flute, oboe, clarinet, violin, fixed media (4 tracks), 1990

Konfigurationen IIIJanuary 1991 (stage work; all players also speak), flute/oboe, bassoon, guitar, piano, 1991

Die Axt (chamber opera in 2 acts, libretto by Anke Rauthmann, Yohanan Kaldi, after Max Frisch), 3 female voices, 6 male voices, mixed chorus, small orchestra (15 players), 2004–06


Grundgesetze I (texts by Karl Marx, Oskar Schammidatus, the composer), 4 speakers, large orchestra (65 players), 1976–77

Genesis, 1979–80

Das Ganze Leben (concerto), piano, orchestra, 1989–90

Pentalog, small orchestra (29 players), 1995–96

Mondlandschaft, small orchestra (12 winds, 11 brass, 3 percussion), 1998–99

25/250.orch, 2000

tenuto, battuto, fulminante, 2001

wanawizzi I, small orchestra, 2011–12


Start, any 6 or more players, 1969

Stück für Improvisatoren, any 3 or more players, 1969–70

Trio, bass clarinet, electric guitar, piano, 1970

Aktionen für 7 Musik-Macher, any 7 players, 1970

Minima, any 3–7 players, 1970

Cum processio tum missa non est, any 3 players, 1970

Musik über Musik, ensemble, fixed media (4 tracks), 1971

Psychogramm, any 3 players, 1971

Streichquartett Nr. 181, string quartet, 1973

Eine Kleine Werbemusik, piano, celesta (+ electronic organ), fixed media, 1973–74

Veränderungen, recorder, synthesizer, fixed media, 1977–78

Sie, any improvisational ensemble, fixed media, 1978 (version of work for fixed media)

Progressionen, flute, oboe, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano, 1981

Konfigurationen I (all players also speak), oboe, English horn, trombone, violin/viola, cello, double bass, piano, percussion, 1982 (its four sections may be performed separately)

Remember, bass clarinet, piano, 1982

Dornenbahn, cello, 1983

Egonia, cello, fixed media, 1983 (concert version of second overture of Egonaus dem Leben eines Bankbeamten)

Friedenslied eines Oboisten, oboe, 1983

Zustand IVII, oboe, clarinet, French horn, trumpet, trombone, 2 violins, viola, cello, percussion, 1984

Erinnerungen IV, 'Es geht ein' dunkle Wolk' herein', guitar, 1987

Karikaturen, flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn, bassoon, 1987

aushalten und bewegen, accordion, 1988

Ausharren im Grauen, oboe, cello, piano, 1988

Kreisen in den Tiefen, viola, cello, double bass, 1988

Entfernung und Annäherung, saxophone, piano, percussion, 1989

senza e con, flute, 3 saxophones, French horn, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, double bass, piano, 1989

Mozmax, 4 violins, viola, cello, double bass, 1991

Strich-Punkt-Strich, 2 violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos, 1992

zerblasen, flute, oboe, clarinet (+ bass clarinet), bassoon, French horn, trumpet, trombone, double bass, 1992–93

Neungestalt, drum kit, 1993

Grafik, bass clarinet, 2 saxophones, piano, percussion, 1993

Heterophonie, bass clarinet, 2 saxophones, piano, percussion, 1993

Akkordsequenz, 3 saxophones, piano, percussion, 1993

Konstellationen, flute, cello, piano, 1993–94

Walk-Music, flute, guitar, violin, percussion, 1994

2. Streichquartett, string quartet, 1995

Fünf Improvisationsmodelle für Jugendliche, any 3–8 players, 1995

Ritardando, 3 bassoons, 1995

Siebensang, flute, 1995

Solitario, flute, guitar, percussion, 1996

NONONONO, violin, 1996

weniger und mehr, violin, piano, accordion, 1996

les pompiers (souvenir de Berlin), 4 trombones, electric guitar, piano, live electronics, 1996

aufflackern und verlöschen, tenor saxophone, 1997

Integration I, any 3 improvisational players, string quartet, 1998

Miniatur, flute, 1998

Rotondo, oboe, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, viola, double bass, piano, accordion, percussion, 1998–99 (collaboration with Werner Bärtschi, Ulrich Gasser, Martin Sigrist, Peter Wettstein)

Food, percussion, 1999

Skizzen, flute, guitar, 1999

Integration II, any 3 improvisational players, string quartet, 1999

Integration III, any 3 improvisational players, string quartet, 1999

Dialogfelder, double bass, percussion, 2000

insieme, a coppie, indipendente, 4 percussion, 2000

Sans cesse, oboe, bassoon, French horn, trombone, violin, viola, cello, double bass, 2001

Farbenfahrten, violin, viola, cello, 2001

Zwillinge, clarinet (+ bass clarinet), trombone, cello, piano, 2001

Schnitt-Muster, flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano, percussion, 2002

Unione e tremolo, violin, viola, 2002

Le Croce, ensemble, 2002

Inseln, viola, cello, 2002

Wie ein Kanon, 4 clarinets ad libitum, 4 double basses, 2002

3. Streichquartett, string quartet, 2003

changements, tuba, piano, percussion, live electronics, 2003

Verschmelzungen, recorder, piano, 2003

calmo e furioso, clarinet, double bass, accordion, 2003

Kalkül und Emotion, 4 saxophones, string quartet, 2004

Schlaglichter, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, double bass, percussion, 2006

nel pomeriggio, baritone saxophone, string quartet, 2006

Eingriffe, flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano, 2006

gebündelt und ausfasernd, flute, clarinet (+ bass clarinet), violin, piano, 2007

les sons perdus, 3 alto recorders (1st + sopranino recorder, 2nd + soprano recorder, 3rd + bass recorder), 2007

concertare e improvvisare, flute, oboe, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, improvisational piano, 2007

Wie Kraut und Rüben, oboe, bassoon, guitar, viola, 2008

Cinque, 4 bassoons, 2008

Dialoge, guitar, live electronics, 2008

hasten und warten, violin, live electronics, 2008

Fünf Improvisationsmodelle (for children), any number of players, 2008

In Regen, Blitz und Donner (improvisation concept for children), 2 saxophones, cello, any number of players, 2008

accent-figure-layer (6 improvisation concepts), bass clarinet (+ tenor saxophone), violin, viola, cello/double bass, piano, percussion, 2008

4. Streichquartett, string quartet, 2008

Wendepunkte (for advanced amateurs), piano, percussion, string quartet, 2009

Il Filo, French horn, violin, 2009

Trio fluido, violin, cello, piano, 2009

Peanuts, flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, 2009

Grillen, French horn, 2 trumpets, trombone, tuba, 2009

ich, du, wir, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, percussion, 2010

Gravuren, percussion, string quartet, 2010

Où est le roi?, flute, violin, cello, organ, 2010

Pourquoi (player also speaks text by Anthony Phelps), violin, 2010

wanawizzi II, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, 2012

mit Pfiff, flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, 2012

Der Rutengänger (after Landschaft mit dem Rutengänger by Paul Klee), oboe, bassoon, guitar, viola, 2012

Mobile, any 1–5 players, 2013


Es ist kalt, children's chorus/female chorus, 1993

Abschied (text by the composer), 16 mixed voices, 2011


Gesänge I (texts by Wolfgang Beutin, Fitzgerald Kusz, Bertolt Brecht), voice, cello, percussion, 1975–76

Sicher sein..., speaker, fixed media, 1976 (version of work for fixed media)

Gesänge II (text by Erich Fried), soprano, flute (+ alto flute), clarinet, cello, piano, 1977

Grundgesetze III, 2 speakers, fixed media, 1977 (version of work for fixed media)

Sie, speaker, fixed media, 1978 (version of work for fixed media)

Zum 1. August (text by the composer), soprano, flute, bass clarinet, violin, cello, piano, 1978

Hymnen, speaker/2 speakers, fixed media, 1979 (version of work for fixed media)

Gesänge III, 'Die Lautlosigkeit der Ameisen' (text by Jürg Weibel), soprano, flute, oboe, clarinet, piano, percussion, 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass, 1981

Sehr verehrter Herr Direktor, voice, piano, fixed media, 1982

Hände, soprano, bass, percussion, 1982–83

Konfigurationen II (texts by Franz Hohler, Hansjörg Schneider, Jürg Schmied, Sascha Anderson, the composer, textes trouvés), alto, flute, clarinet (+ bass clarinet), violin, cello, piano, percussion, 1989

Zuflucht (text by the composer), alto, piano, 1990

Gesänge IVZehn Gedichte von Kurt Marti (text by Kurt Marti), soprano, flute, clarinet (+ bass clarinet), violin, cello, piano, 1992

Moralinski (text by Adrian Sollberger), voice, saxophone, piano, percussion, 1994

Deformationen (texts by the composer, Eduardo Galeano), soprano, flute, guitar, 1998

Fern(seh) – Mitleid, soprano, violin, 2001

Vom Grunde (text by Barbara Köhler), baritone, piano, 2003

Uf Ärde (meditation on the folksong from Switzerland 's Vreneli ab em Guggisberg), baritone, 2003

Löwen Löwen (text by Klaus Merz), soprano, violin, 2004

Graduale (text by Silja Walter), mixed chorus, clarinet, percussion, 2005

12-06-07 (texts from 2 newspapers from 12 June 2007), soprano, oboe, alto saxophone, French horn, viola, 2007

allemal (text by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg), soprano, clarinet, piano, 2007

Schwein gha! (Lied for children in 3 strophes, text by the composer), voice, piano, 2008

blau rot soft (text by the composer), 3 sopranos, 2009 (collaboration with Ralf Hoyer, Susanne Stelzenbach; also version as Blauer Regen, soprano, 2009)

Snowflakean Thoughts (text by James A. Emanuel; for amateurs), voice–speaker, alto saxophone, piano, 2010

1968und heute? (text by the composer), countertenor/tenor, recorder, 2010

Ruh' (text by the composer), soprano, cello, 2011

Shopping List (text by Barry Wallenstein), voice–speaker, alto saxophone, piano, 2011

Pour aller mieux (text by Jean Miniac), tenor, tenor saxophone, piano, 2011

Die Schwestern (text by Christian Morgenstern), soprano, double bass, 2011

Mutter Natur (texts by Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, the composer), soprano, flute, oboe, clarinet (+ bass clarinet), violin, viola, cello, piano, percussion, 2011

Will it matter (text by Heng Siok Tian), mezzo-soprano, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, 2012

Les Fleurs du Mal (text by Charles Baudelaire), soprano, guitar, 2012

Das Tattoo blickt böse (text by the composer), soprano, string quartet, 2012


Dreiklang, 1976

Erinnerungen II, 1980

Erinnerungen III, 1986

Achuapa / Nicaragua (pianist also speaks), 1986

Vier Klavierstücke, 1993 (its four sections may be performed separately)

Kobold, 1998

agieren und reagieren, piano, live electronics, 1998–99

Three lines (hommage à Johann Sebastian Bach), 2000 (collaboration with Werner Bärtschi, Martin Sigrist)

Selbstgespräche, piano, live electronics, 2006

Movements, 2009 (also shorter version as Spontaneous Movements, 2009)


Erinnerungen V, 1988


Repetitionen IV, 1980


Sicher sein..., fixed media, 1976 (also version for speaker, fixed media)

Grundgesetze III, fixed media, 1977 (also version for 2 speakers, fixed media)

Sie, fixed media, 1978 (also versions for speaker, fixed media; any improvisational ensemble, fixed media)

Hymnen, fixed media, 1979 (also version for speaker/2 speakers, fixed media)

Erinnerungen I, fixed media, 1980

Puls und Trigger, fixed media, 1984

trotz-dem, fixed media, 1988


zusammenwachsen, bassoon, piano, 2012


Sicher sein... (second version). (SMI: 001, 1977) (LP)

Repetitionen IV. Martin Derungs, harpsichord (pläne: 88 633, 1988) (LP)

Dornenbahn; Friedenslied eines Oboisten; Zustand IVII; Achuapa / Nicaragua; Konfigurationen II. Béatrice Mathez Wüthrich, alto; Gerhard Erber, voice, piano; Burkhard Glaetzner, oboe; David Riniker, cello; Dominik Blum/ensemble für neue musik zürich; Bernhard Wulff/Sinfonieorchester Basel (col legno: AU 31801, 1990)

Erinnerungen IV, 'Es geht ein' dunkle Wolk' herein'; Gesänge IVZehn Gedichte von Kurt Marti; Neungestalt; zerblasen; aushalten und bewegen. Martina Bovet, soprano; Christoph Jäggin, guitar; Teodoro Anzellotti, accordion; Christoph Brunner, drum kit; Ensemble Opera Nova; Ensemble Aventure (Edition Jecklin: JS 310-2, 1995)

Pentalog. Howard Griffiths/Sinfonietta Wetzikon (Grammont: CTS-M 54, 1997)

Sie (original version). (Cybele Records: 960.104/LC 3738, 2001)

Rotondo. Christian Hommel/Ensemble Aventure (Schweizerischer Tonkünstlerverein: STV/ASM 016, 2002)

Mondlandschaft; Dialogfelder; Progressionen; agieren und reagieren; Deformationen; 2. Streichquartett. Eiko Morikawa, soprano; Sarah Hornsby, flute; Daniel Göritz, guitar; Johannes Nied, double bass; Susanne Stelzenbach, piano; Victoria Ifrim, percussion; Schlesisches Streichquartett; Gruppo Musica Insieme di Cremona; David Zinman/Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich (Grammont: CTS-M 84, 2003)

insieme, a coppie, indipendente. Leipziger Schlagzeugensemble (M&S: 5042/4, 2006)

accent-figure-layer; Unione e tremolo; NONONONO. Christoph Erb, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone; Egidius Streiff, violin; Muriel Schweizer, viola; Dominique Girod, double bass; Max E. Keller, piano; Dani Schaffner, percussion (Dreamscape: DEA 4765, 2010)

tenuto, battuto, fulminante; Selbstgespräche; Cinque; Trio fluido. Werner Bärtschi, piano, live electronics; Trio Flair; Quadriga Fagott Ensemble; David Zinman/Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich (NEOS: 11121, 2011)

Die Schwestern. Katja Guedes, soprano; Matthias Bauer, double bass (Grammont: CTS-M 137, 2012)