Hermann Zilcher (1881–1948)

Hermann Zilcher began his compositional works as a young student at the Hoch's College of Music in the city of his birth, Frankfurt am Main. Beginning in 1901, he worked in Berlin for some years before briefly returning to Frankfurt as a piano teacher.

In 1908 Felix Mottl appointed him pianist and, in 1916, teacher of composition at the highly renowned Munich Academy of Music. Important for his artistic development, it was during these years that he composed his first great works: the "Liebesmesse" op. 27, in the view of the critics a controversial work, the "Deutsches Volksliederspiel" op. 32, song cycles based upon lyrics of Eichendorff, Hölderlin and Goethe or the first Symphony in A major op. 1.

Zilcher's name is especially connected to Würzburg, where from 1920 on he was principal of the Würzburg Conservatory, and where, in 1922, he founded the Mozart festivals. Here he regained new energy as a composer and a conductor. In his works he was dependent upon Brahms and Schumann as well as on the techniques of the eighteenth century e.g. the Rokoko-Suite "An den Menschen" op. 65, the Rameau Suite op. 76, and the "Variationen über ein Thema von Mozart für Klavier" op. 101.

The sound of the humane, enlightened age, a sometimes popular style, similar even to folksongs, reflected upon his interests that led to the founding of the Mozart festivals in 1922: his emotion and sensibility were strongly opposed to the atonality and the kinetic motion in the music of the beginning twentieth century (which he called "Eisenbetongeist" = spirit of reinforced concrete).

Following his last Mozart festival in 1944, after his conservatory was destroyed by bombs and Zilcher was accused of opportunism, his creative power was broken at last. He died on New Years Day, 1948.

(Martina Hochreiter, translated by Werner Enzenberger, from the booklet to "Musik des XX. Jahrhunderts für Bläserquintett", CD MP Media, 1999)