Biography of Burkhard Paul:
As a composer Paul Burkhard mainly made a name for himself with his operettas and their numerous chansons - among them Die kleine Niederdorf-Oper (1951) or Feuerwerk (1950) (Firework), the High German version of the operetta Der Schwarze Hecht (1939) (The Black Jack), originally written in dialect. With the latter, Burkhard had his international breakthrough,
which was crowned by the 1954 film, featuring the Hollywood actress Lilly Palmer and Romy Schneider, who at that time was still hardly known. The composer, pianist and conductor, who was born in Zurich in December 1911, wrote down his first compositions at an early age. He became a pupil at the Zurich Conservatory at the age of seven, where he enjoyed his musical education with various teachers such as Carl Vogler (theory of harmony), Paul Müller (counterpoint), Volkmar Andreae (composition), Emil Frey and Walter Lang (piano), as well as Carl Hessel (violoncello) until 1932. During this time - as he later reported himself - he was fortunately cured of his “wunderkind” airs and graces. But Burkhard did not want to go down in music history as “Operetta-Fritz”. Always seeking, sometimes in a bitter struggle, his own compositional style, Burkhard left a broad and substantial oeuvre behind. Apart from various chamber music works, incidental music, ballet and film scores, his compositional repertoire includes orchestral pieces, music for choir and sacred plays for children and adolescents. He achieved world success lasting until this very day with Zäller Wiehnacht (Christmas at Zell), composed at the request of the inhabitants of Zell in 1960. Alongside the musical Regenbogen (1977) (Rainbow), the trio Sieben Stufen des Lebens, begleitet von einer Nachtigall, der Bringering eines sanften Todes (Seven steps of life, accompanied by a nightingale, the bringer of a gentle death) is among his last completed works, which comprises chamber musically the clarinet, harp and organ. In this piece, which was composed in 1976, Burkhard, who died in the following year on 6 September following a long and severe ailment, recalls his entire musical life in seven short movements. Besides working as a composer, for many years Burkhard’s main occupation was that of a conductor. He began his career as a conductor at the Berner Stadttheater in 1932, where he first acted as a répétiteur, and a year later became the director of music. In 1938, he transferred to the theatre in Zurich (Schauspielhaus) as the director of music and resident composer. Through Hermann Scherchen he was finally appointed second conductor of the Studio-Orchestra at the Landessender Beromünster (broadcasting station Beromünster) in Zurich in 1944. After moving to Zell in the Tösstal, Paul Burkhard worked as a free-lance conductor with guest performances in various countries, such as Germany, England, France and Austria. His versatile repertoire consisted mainly of works of light music. He also repeatedly interpreted contemporary Swiss composers such as Ralph Benatzky, Richard Flury, Willy Hess, Arthur Honegger, Nico Kaufmann, Boris Mersson, Heinrich Sutermeister - and Hans Schaeuble, who valued Burkhard as an “excellent musician and conductor”, and as a “charming master of the rather small things” (Schaueble’s diary entry dated 9 September 1977).