Classical Music

Passport Switzerland – Heinrich Sutermeister

Welcome to Switzerland – land of great skiing, yodeling, neutrality, chocolate and gorgeous mountains. (I highly recommend taking a train ride through the Alps at sunset. It’s absolutely breathtaking!)

It’s also land to the latest composer in my passport series: Heinrich Sutermeister. He’s a 20th century composer who is probably best known for his operas and choral works.

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Heinrich Sutermeister

Heinrich Sutermeister (1910-1995)

Hometown: Feuerthalen (near Zurich) Switzerland

Alma Mater: Staatliche Akademie der Tonkunst (State Academy of Music), Munich, Germany

Known for: Operas, choral pieces

Sutermeister studied in Munich under Carl Orff (Carmina Burana) whose music influenced him throughout his life. Early in his musical career, he had a one-year apprenticeship at the Berne City Theatre. It’s perhaps thanks to his time there that he gained a lot of support by way of several commissions and play time on the Berne Radio.

I love that he even made it onto a Swiss postage stamp!

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Heinrich Sutermeister stamp

This is a performance of his Capriccio for unaccompanied Clarinet in A (1947). I especially like the playful section about a minute and a half in. It just sounds fun to me. There are other fun parts, too – particularly around the 4-minute mark. Take a listen and enjoy!

I hope you’ll listen to this lovely choral piece, Schilflieder, sung by the German a cappella group, Quartonal. It’s a relaxing piece that is beautifully sung. I don’t understand a word since my German really stinks, but regardless of how much you do or do not understand, it’s worth listening to the entire 5-1/2 minutes.

Sutermeister originally wrote works for the radio, but later turned to television opera, loosely converting stories such as Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert and Exit the King by Eugene Ionesco to small scale operas.

He also wrote the libretto and music for a two-act opera Romeo and Julia after Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The video below allows you to listen to some excerpts from that particular opera.

Thanks for reading this! I hope you were able to take some time to listen to Sutermeister’s music and get to know him a little better like I did. Prior to starting this series, I’d never heard of him before, so I’m excited to try something new.

The next composer I’ll be writing about is from Italy: Giovanni Pergolesi.

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