Bernd Alois Zimmermann (1918 – 1970)
An individualist among West German composers after the war who, perhaps more than anyone else, expressed the horror and shame of the Nazi era in his music. Zimmermann received a Catholic education and began a teacher training course before the Wehrmacht sent him to the eastern front. In 1942, he was discharged for medical reasons, but could not commence an actual composition education until five years later.
After gradually shaking off neoclassical influences, he began reaching the twelve-tone technique – but without completely breaking with tradition, rather by incorporating jazz. A key piece is the trumpet concert “Nobody knows the trouble I see” from 1954. Over the years, Zimmermann’s music grew in terms of format and often required huge orchestral resources, preferably including jazz bands. His opera “Die Soldaten” is a glowing highlight in modern German expressionism, as equally extremely demanding to produce as intense in its flaming criticism of the essence of war.
As an early postmodernist pioneer, Zimmermann launched a pluralistic citation technique – both in musical and literary terms, ranging from Dostoevsky and Joyce to Bach and the Beatles. An increasing depression and failing vision contributed to Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s suicide at the age of 52.