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Widmer Ernst (25. 04. 1927 - 03. 01. 1990)

Widmer Ernst

Widmer Ernst
Ernst Widmer-Gesellschaft
Wiesenstrasse 21
CH-5000 Aarau
Tel. +41 (0)62 822 40 52


Born in Aarau Widmer spent his childhood and teenage years in an art-loving home. In 1934 he received his first instruction in piano. From 1939 until 1943 he attended school (pre undergraduate) in Aarau, he said, "At the age of fourteen I realised that I belonged to music". From 1943 until 1947 he attended college in Aarau and was instructed in piano and the theory of harmony by Otto Kuhn. During this time he formed lifelong friendships, discovered the music of Strawinsky, Hindemith and Bartok and produced his first compositions. Following his undergraduate studies he studied composition and counterpoint (Willy Burkhard), piano (Walter Frey), conducting (Paul Müller), school singing (Ernst Hörler) and analysis (Rudolf Wittelsbach). He was strongly influenced by Burkhards' skill as a teacher and Freys' mediation of modern music. He composed 'Fünf Lieder im alten Stil' in 1949, this is now known as opus 1. He received his diploma in all subjects in 1950 and from then on until 1956 he was the conductor of a church choir in Aarau, a teacher for choral singing at college and a private piano teacher. He closely followed the development of new music. He had early success with his compositions for choir, lieder, instrumental ensembles and solo instruments; this led to numerous composition commissions for radio. These and earlier recordings by radio DRS were later deleted. In 1955 he married the Brazilian singer Sonja Born. After sensing the constriction of Switzerland he remained in Brazil after taking a holiday there in 1956. In the same year he was engaged as a teacher for music theory and choir conducting (later extended to piano teacher) at the 'Seminarios livres da Música' (which later became the music school as part of the 'Universidade Federal da Bahia') in Salvador da Bahia. He was appointed this position by the director H.J. Koellreuter who was then a central figure in the Brazilian music scene. From 1958 until 1967 he led the colleges madrigal choir to international renown, producing compositions for the choir, making recordings and touring. In 1962 he married again, this time to Adriana Bispo (also known as 'Lys') who was the solo soprano in the madrigal choir. Together they had three children. In 1963 he succeeded Koellreutter as teacher for composition and counterpoint. His teaching activities were later extended to improvisation, orchestration, conducting and musical education. From 1963 until 1965, 1967 until 1969 and 1976 until 1980 he was director of the music school in Bahia. In 1966 he founded the 'Grupo de Compositores da Bahia'. Widmer was the intellectual and spiritual mentor for the next generation of Brazilian composers. "Groups but no schools".
In 1967 he accepted citizenship of Brazil under the protection of Swiss citizenship. He was artistic director of the Festival for New Music in Bahia from 1969 until 1973 and then from 1974 until 1982 he was artistic director of the 'Festival de Arte Bahia'. He brought Brazilian composers as well as European and North American contemporary performers to the stage.

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