Willy Burkhard Collection

Willy Burkhard
Swiss composer

born on 17 April 1900 in Leubringen (Evilard), Switzerland
died on 18 June 1955 in Zurich, Switzerland


Willy Burkhard studied in Berne, Leipzig, Munich and Paris before joining the staff of Berne Conservatory as a theory teacher. From 1933 a respiratory ailment forced him to live in Montana and Davos until 1942, when he moved to Zurich. There he taught theory and composition at the conservatory to the end of his days. Among his pupils were Giuseppe G. Englert, Klaus Huber, Rudolf Kelterborn and Armin Schibler.

Burkhard has the reputation of contributing in no small measure to the renewal of sacred music in the first half of the 20th century, especially with his oratorio Das Gesicht Jesajas (1934). But his music is also noteworthy for its great variety, ranging from chamber music, orchestral compositions and vocal works all the way to opera, and extending from Gebrauchsmusik to densely expressive late works that grapple with more recent compositional techniques.

Willy Burkhard in the early 1950s (photo PSS)
Willy Burkhard in the early 1950s (photo PSS)

The Willy Burkhard Collection entered the holdings of the PSS through his widow Marie-Luise Burkhard in 1990. In addition to a few sketches and drafts, it contains autograph fair copies of most of his works, including the 99 items in his official catalogue as well as juvenilia and occasional pieces. It also has a large volume of correspondence and textual manuscripts.

As Paul Sacher commissioned and premièred a number of Burkhard's works, several more of the composer's manuscripts are preserved in the Paul Sacher Collection.

Willy Burkhard, Rilke Song Cycle 2, op. 2, no. 2 (1927), no. 1: 'Ihr Mädchen seid wie Gärten', fair copy of score
Willy Burkhard, Rilke Song Cycle 2, op. 2, no. 2 (1927), no. 1: 'Ihr Mädchen seid wie Gärten', fair copy of score

Scope of holdings

  • Music manuscripts: sketches and drafts: 5 folders
  • Music manuscripts: fair copies: ca. 120 folders
  • Textual manuscripts: 1 archival box
  • Correspondence: 7 archival boxes
  • Programmes / reviews: 2 archival boxes
  • Sound recordings: ca. 60 LPs
  • Library: ca. 40 volumes

Period covered

ca. 1921 to 1955


1990 Collection enters the PSS holdings


  • An internal microfilm index can be consulted at the PSS
  • Internal lists can be consulted at the PSS

External links

Willy Burkhard Society: www.willyburkhard.ch


6 February 2019