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Wilhelm Killmayer

Wilhelm Killmayer

Country of origin: Germany
Birthday: August 21, 1927
Date of death: August 20, 2017

About Wilhelm Killmayer

A single note is very precious for me - like a crystal or a flower. (Wilhelm Killmayer)

Wilhelm Killmayer was born in Munich on 21 August 1927. He spent his early childhood in Mitterndorf near Dachau, but subsequently moved to Munich with his family on the death of his father. Killmayer received regular piano tuition from the age of six. After passing his Abitur, he studied conducting and composition at Hermann Wolfgang von Waltershausen’s Musikseminar in Munich (1945-1951). Alongside courses in musicology given by Rudolf von Ficker and Walter Riezler, Killmayer simultaneously undertook private studies with Carl Orff (1951-1953) and subsequently entered his master class at the Staatliche Musikhochschule in Munich (1953/54). From 1955, Killmayer taught music theory and counterpoint at the Trappsches Konservatorium in Munich and was employed by the Bavarian State Opera as ballet conductor between 1961 and 1964. After two scholarship sojourns in Rome in the Villa Massimo (1958 and 1965/66), Killmayer became a freelance composer and settled in Frankfurt am Main in 1968. He was appointed as professor of composition at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Munich in 1973. From becoming emeritus professor in 1992 to his death in 2017 in Starnberg, Killmayer divided his time between Munich and Lake Chiemsee.

As early as the post-war decades, the young composer had turned his back on the theoretical dogmas of serial music and developed his own personal style born primarily out of his study of 19th century musical traditions. Orchestral works such as Nachtgedanken (1973), the three Sinfonien (“Fogli”, 1968; “Ricordanze”, 1968/69 and “Menschen-Los”, 1972/73 rev. 1988) and the three Kammermusiken (The woods so wilde, 1970; Schumann in Endenich, 1972 and Kindertage, 1973) were created within the conflicting fields of ostinato repeats of individual motives and rhythms and a frequently radical reduction of compositional devices. In his stage works La Buffonata (1959/60) and Yolimba (new version 1970), both set to texts by Tankred Dorst, Killmayer enabled the stylistic mediums of parody and musical humour to permeate the realms of contemporary music.

The individual note and its melodic power lie at the core of Wilhelm Killmayer’s aesthetics. The voice is the most natural medium for melody and this concept was borne out by Killmayer in many of his vocal compositions. During the 1980s, he composed the three cycles of Hölderlin Lieder which exist in two versions with either piano or orchestral accompaniment, subsequently followed by the Eichendorff Lieder (1991), Trakl Lieder (1993 and 1996) and Härtling Lieder (1993). In 2006, Killmayer composed a setting of Heinrich Heine’s ballad Ali Bey, and a year later Eduard Mörike’s Der Feuerreiter.

In 1954, Killmayer was awarded the prize by the Music Foundation in Chicago for his Missa brevis. In 1957, he received the Kulturpreis from the City of Munich for Une leçon de français and in 1965 the Prix Italia. Killmayer was awarded a scholarship by the Cité des Arts in Paris and participated in the Rostrum of Composers, also in Paris, in 1974 with his Sinfonia 1 “Fogli”. In 1989, he received the Paul Hindemith Prize under the auspices of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, in 1993 the Bayerische Maximiliansorden for Science and Art and in 2010 the chamber music prize presented by the Christoph und Stephan Kaske Foundation.

Killmayer has been a full member of the Bavarian Akademie der Schönen Künste (since 1972) and the Berlin Akademie der Künste (since 1980).



Geboren am 21. August in München als Sohn des 1932 verstorbenen Bezirksoberlehrers Wilhelm Killmayer; bis 1932 Kinderjahre in Mitterndorf bei Dachau; ab 1932 in München
ab 1933
ab 1937
Humanistisches Gymnasium (Maximiliansgymnasium München)
Musikseminar bei H.W. von Waltershausen
nach Unterbrechung durch den Krieg Abitur in München
Universitätsstudium. Hauptfach: Musikwissenschaft (von Ficker, Riezler), Nebenfächer: Germanistik, Italienisch
staatliche Abschlussprüfung in den Hauptfächern Dirigieren und Komposition
Privatunterricht bei Carl Orff, anschließend
Besuch der Meisterklasse von Carl Orff an der Staatlichen Musikhochschule München
Preis der Fromm Music Foundation, Chicago, für "Missa brevis"
Lehrer für Theorie und Kontrapunkt am Trappschen Konservatorium, München
Kulturpreis der Stadt München
1. Romaufenthalt; Stipendium der Villa Massimo, Rom
Heirat mit Wendula Mirschel
Ballettdirigent an der Bayerischen Staatsoper, München
Prix Italia für "Une leçon de français"
2. Romaufenthalt; Stipendium der Villa Massimo, Rom
Übersiedlung nach Frankfurt am Main
Parisaufenthalt; Stipendium der Cité des Arts, Paris
Ordentliches Mitglied der Bayerischen Akademie der Schönen Künste
Professor für Komposition an der Staatlichen Hochschule für Musik, München
Rostrum of Composers, Paris, für "1. Sinfonie"
Übersiedlung nach München
Mitglied der Berliner Akademie der Künste
Geburt der Zwillinge Felix und Ferdinand
Heirat mit Martina Soll
Geburt der Tochter Susanna Caecilie
Hindemith-Preis im Rahmen des Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festivals
Mitglied des Bayerischen Maximiliansordens für Wissenschaft und Kunst
Oberbayerischer Kulturpreis
Musikpreis der Landeshauptstadt München
Preis der Christoph und Stephan Kaske-Stiftung.
Gestorben am 20. August in Starnberg bei München