Walter Zimmermann

(b. 15 April 1949, Schwabach, Bavaria).

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 Gymnasium Fürth in the mid-1960s and composition with Werner Heider in Nuremberg from 1968–70. He attended the Kölner Kurse für Neue Musik from 1970–73, where he studied with Mauricio Kagel. He also studied electronic music with Otto Laske at the Instituut voor Sonologie of the Universiteit Utrecht, at the Etnomusicologisch Centrum Jaap Kunst at the Universiteit van Amsterdam and privately in Hamilton, New York in 1974.

Among his honours include the Förderpreis from the city of Cologne (1980), Erster Preis in the competition of the festival Ensemblia 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-Musikpreis Mainz (1989).

He is also active in other positions. He performed as pianist in the ars nova ensemble nürnberg from 1968–70 and recorded folk music in Germany and the USA in 1976. He opened Beginner Studios in Cologne in 1977 and gave regular concerts of contemporary 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-organised with Stefan Schädler the Anarchic Harmony Festival in Frankfurt am Main in 1992, a tribute to John Cage on his 80th birthday.

He taught composition at the Conservatoire royal de musique in Liège from 1980–84 and at the Hochschule für Musik Karlsruhe from 1990–92 and has taught as Professor für Komposition at the Universität der Künste Berlin since 1993. He also lectured at the Ferienkurse in Darmstadt in 1982 and 1984 and at the Koninklijk Conservatorium 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)



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, slide projections, 1989–90


Akkordarbeit, piano, orchestra, fixed media, 1971

In Understanding Music the Sound Dies, small orchestra (3 flutes, 3 clarinets, 3 trombones, 2 pianos, percussion, 3 violins, 3 violas, 3 cellos), 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 cellos, double bass), 1983

Ataraxia, piano, orchestra, 1988

Diastasis (a)/Diastema (b), 2 orchestras (without conductors), 1991–92

Seiltänze, cello, large orchestra (9 winds, 9 brass, harp, guitar, mandolin, Hackbrett [hammered dulcimer from Austria], celesta, timpani, crotales, glockenspiel, tubular bells, tuned cowbells, 2 percussion, 18 violins, 12 violas, 9 cellos), 2002–04

SUAVE MARI MAGNOClinamen IIV, large orchestra in 6 groups, 1996–2013


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, fixed media, 1976, revised 1993

MandingoKoroharfe, mandolin, 1976, revised 1993

10 Fränkische Tänze, 4 drone zithers ad libitum, 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, Streichglasspiel (musical glasses), 1979

Riuti (Rodungen und Wüstungen), percussion, 1980

Keuper, string quartet, 1980

Wolkenorte, harp, 1980

Ephemer, violin, cello, piano, 1981

Der Tanz und der Schmerz, flute, oboe, clarinet, fortepiano, string quartet, 1981, revised 2005

Lösung, viola, cello, double bass, 1983

Glockenspiel (percussionist also speaks texts by Jean-Paul, Peter Waterhouse), percussion, 1983, revised 2004

Klangfaden, bass clarinet, harp, glockenspiel (+ Klangstein [lithophone by Arthur Schneiter]), 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

Festina lente, string quartet, 1987

Lied im Wüstenvogelton, bass flute, piano, 1987

Geduld und Gelegenheit, cello, piano, 1987–89

The Echoing Green, violin, piano, 1989

Distentio, violin, viola, cello, 1992

Schatten der Ideen 1, bass clarinet, bassoon, French horn, 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass, 1992

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, fixed media, 1993–94

Schatten der Ideen 3, button accordion, 1994

Kindheitsblock (both 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-wave generators, 1995

Parasit/Paraklet, clarinet, string quartet, fixed media, 1995

Northwest-Passage, E-flat clarinet, piccolo trumpet, violin, double bass, 2 percussion, 1995

Monade/Nomade, violoncello piccolo, 1995

Baile de la Conquista, flute (+ piccolo, bass flute), oboe (+ ocarina, English horn), percussion, 1996

Songs of Innocence and Experience, string quartet, fixed media, 1996, revised 2004

Irrgarten, bass zither, 1997, revised 2008

Shadows of Cold Mountain 3, flute, oboe, clarinet, 1997

Shadows of Cold Mountain 4, flute, fixed media, 1997

Dit (cellist also speaks), violoncello piccolo, fixed media, 1995–99

Quattro Coronati (cellist also speaks text by Martin Luther), violoncello piccolo (+ cello), 1995–99

Die Sorge geht über den Fluß, violin, 1989–2001

Schatten der Ideen 4, 'De Umbris Idearum', piano, string quartet, 2001, revised 2010

Gold, oboe, cello, piano, 2003

Taula/Novo Ben (texts by Ramon Llull, Biagio Marin), viola (+ voice), 2003

Verdrehtes LiedInterieur (texts by Michael Donhauser, Gottfried Benn), violin (+ voice), 2004

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 Fuad Rifka [German translation]), oud (lute from the Middle East)/Hackbrett (+ voice), 2006 (also version [original language] for viola [+ voice], 2010)

Schatten der Ideen 5, 'Fear of Symmetry', 2 ensembles (flute, oboe, bass clarinet, 2 violins, viola, cello; clarinet, bassoon, French horn, 2 violins, viola, cello), 2007–08

As I was walking along I came upon chance, tenor saxophone, piano, percussion, 2008

Tre Stanze, guitar, 2009

Kore, flute, clarinet, harp, piano, percussion, 2010

Marginalie '...denn von Echos lebst du', cello, 2010

Chantbook of Modified Melodies, any 4 strings, 2011

Trauer heißt ganz Ohr sein, contrabass clarinet, violin (+ voice), 2011


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

Das Zwiegespräch der beiden Rosen (text by Edmond Jabès), 3 female voices, 3 male voices, cello, 2005


Die Spanische Reise des Oswald von Wolkenstein, baritone, ney (flute from the Middle East), oud, qanun (zither from the Middle East), rababa (2-string bowed instrument from the Middle East), percussion from the Middle East, 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, noises obbligato, 1981–84

Spielwerk (text by Novalis), soprano, 6 flutes, 6 clarinets, 3 saxophones, 6 French horns, 6 cellos, 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, fixed media, 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, fixed media, 2000

Himmeln (text by Felix Philipp Ingold), soprano/mezzo-soprano, drone zither, 2007

Sarganserland (text by Michael Donhauser), voice, Schwyzerörgeli (diatonic button accordion from Switzerland), percussion, 2008


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 (pianist also speaks), 1995

Barn Snake Dance, 1996

AIMIDEAmicitias immortales, mortales inimicitias debere esse, 1987–2002

Schatten der Ideen 6, 'Blaupause', 2003

The missing nail at the river, piano (+ toy piano), 2003–04

Schatten der Ideen 6a, 'blauPause', 2004

Romanska Bågar, piano left hand, 2004

Voces Abandonadas (primera serie), 2005

Voces Abandonadas (segunda serie), 2006


La Fleur Inverse, 2001

evoL, 2001–08 (also version as evoL-Echo, 5 organs, 2008)


Wanda Landowskas verschwundene Instrumente, MIDI-harpsichord (+ fortepiano), fixed media ad libitum, 1994


Seidenstraße, fixed media, film, 2001


15 Zwiefache. Geoffrey Morris, guitar (ABC Classics)

Lied im Wüstenvogelton. Laura Chislett, bass flute (ABC Classics: 446 738-2)

Saitenspiel. Péter Eötvös/Ensemble Modern (BMG/RCA: 74321 73502 2)

Irrgarten (original version). 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)

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

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

Lied im Wüstenvogelton. Klaus Schöpp, bass flute; Yoriko Ikeya, piano (Made from Nothing)

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

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

10 Fränkische Tänze (version with drone zithers); Keuper; Festina lente; Songs of Innocence and Experience; Die Sorge geht über den Fluß; Taula/Novo Ben; 10 Fränkische Tänze (version without drone zithers). Nikolaus Schlierf, voice, viola; Susanne Zapf, violin; Sonar Quartett (Mode Records: mode 245/46)

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

When I'm 84. Aki Takahashi, piano (Toshiba EMI: TOCE-8021)

Die Blinden; Singbarer Rest. Manfred Schreier/Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart (WERGO: 6510 2)

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)