Obituary: German Composer Udo Zimmermann Dies at 78

By Francisco Salazar

On Oct. 22, 2021 Udo Zimmermann, a German composer, musicologist, opera director, and conductor died at the age of 78.

According to reports Zimmermann died of a long illness.

Born on Oct. 6, 1943, in Dresden Germany, Zimmermann became a member of the Dresdner Kreuzchor from 1954 to 1962. During that time he was directed by Rudolf Mauersberger and Zimmermann became immersed in the works of Johann Sebastian Bach. That influenced him to write three motets which were performed by the choir.

He would continue his music education at the Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber where he studied composition with Johannes Paul Thilman and voice and conducting.

Durign that time he composed Dramatische Impression für Violoncello und Klavier auf den Tod von J. F. Kennedy, Fünf Gesänge für Bariton und Kammerorchester, and the opera “Weiße Rose” based on a libretto by his brother Ingo Zimmermann. From 1968, he studied in Berlin at the Akademie der Künste with Günter Kochan and that same year he composed Musik für Streicher.

In the 1970’s he became a dramaturg for the Semperoper Dresden and in 1978 he was appointed professor of composition at the Dresden Musikhochschule. During that time he also started to conduct major orchestras like the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony, Staatskapelle Dresden, Gewandhausorchester in Leipzig, Orchestre de Radio France in Paris, Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich, Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, NDR Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg, Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. He was also a guest conductor at the opera houses in Bonn, Hamburg, Munich, and Vienna.

In 1986, Zimmermann founded the Dresden Center for Contemporary Music and returned to writing opera. That same year he became the artistic director of the Leipzig Opera and helped 27 new works premiere. Under his guidance the house received international attention, presenting Busoni’s “Doktor Faust” staged by Willy Decker, and a cycle of Mozart’s operas on librettos by da Ponte, staged by John Dew. From 2001 to 2003 he held the position of General Director at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Throughout his career, he directed the series musica viva of contemporary music and notable composers and ensembles to concerts in Munich. He also wrote a number of operas of which were later recorded.