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foto Ernst Widmer
Ernst Widmer (Aarau - Su暲a, 25/4/1927 - 3/1/1990)


  •       Presentation
  •       Academic Life
  •       Professional Activity

  •       Some Considerations about Style
  •       Criticism and Theory: chronological list of works
  • Ilza Nogueira
    (English Revision by Martha Herr)




    ERNST WIDMER (Aarau, 25/4/1927 - 3/1/1990) was a composer, conductor, pianist and educator. Invited by H. J. Koellreutter, he came to Brazil in 1956 to teach in the Seminrios Livres de Msica of the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA), a school founded in 1954 by President Edgard Santos. Enthusiastic with the "extraordinary potentiality of Brazilians" and the flexibility of that school's teaching proposal, Widmer settled in Bahia, where, according to him, he could develop a greater volume of work than would have been possible in Switzerland.

    In the Music School at UFBA, Widmer had many functions, conducting the choir and teaching piano, music perception, basic theory, harmony, counterpoint, analysis, fugue, music education, composition, improvisation, instrumentation, orchestration and conducting. As a composition teacher, he always motivated and propitiated the search for individual language through a teaching methodology rooted in two principles which he considered to be essential to the creative act: organicism and relativism. Widmer's pedagogy was object of an extensive analytical investigation carried out by composer Paulo Lima for his doctoral dissertation (Ernst Widmer e o ensino de composi豫o na Bahia, Salvador: FAZCULTURA / COPENE, 1999). His openness to every and any type of creative thought and his rebelliousness in regard to established principles were the trademarks of Widmer's pedagogical and compositional conduct. His influence over the Composer's Group of Bahia, of which he was a founding member, is latent in the declaration of the Group's principles, published in the first of its bulletins (1966): "we are against all and any declared principle".



    Widmer's musical training - in piano, composition and the pedagogy of music theory - took place at the Music Conservatory in Zurich between 1947 and 1950. There he studied with Willy Burkhard (composition) and Walter Frey (piano). At that time, the recent works of Bla Bartk exerted a strong impression on young Widmer, since he heard the premire of Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta in Basel (1943) and one presentation of the Concerto for Orchestra in Zurich (1946). His admiration for Bartk is explicit in his Hommages to Frank Martin, Bela Bartk and Igor Strawinsky, op. 18 (1959), which carries the dedication "to the idols of my youth". Six years later, Bartk's influence materializes in the Ludos Brasiliensis: 162 progressive pieces for piano, op. 37 (1965-66), a work modeled after the Mikrokosmos. One could even say that after the conclusion of his music studies, the informal study of the works by Bartk represented a continuum in Widmer's academic formation.



    During all the time in which he taught, Widmer was always at the head of administrative positions at UFBA: Director of the Music School in three non-consecutive periods (1963-65, 1967-69 e 1976-80); member of the Conselho Universitrio (University Council) (1979); representative of the Music School in the Conselho de Coordena豫o (Coordinating Board), Coordenador Central de Extenso (Executive Coordinator of the Office for Community Relations) (1980-84) and President of the Comisso permanante de Pessoal Docente (Faculty Council Executive Committee (1981).

    His professional career was also marked by intensive activity as cultural producer, always directed towards the conception of new music events, like the New Music Festivals in Bahia (1969-73) and the following Festivais de Arte*Bahia (1974-82). Projected to stimulate the creation of new music, these events may be considered as pedagogical strategy. As Widmer said, "opportunities, like pitfalls, have to be conceived during the learning process". His objective was to emphasize the presentation of original music, instead of that with recognized value.

    Widmer retired in 1987, after which he lived both in Salvador and Belo Horizonte, while he composed his pera da liberdade, op. 172, based on the episode of the "Inconfidncia Mineira" (libretto by Myriam Fraga), supported by the Sociedade Vitae (Arts Stipend).

    In 1988, the nationally recognized value of his artistic and teaching career led to being nominated for chair number 31 in the Brazilian Music Academy, the patron of which was musicologist Guilherme de Mello, from Bahia.

    After his retirement he tightened the bonds with his homeland. A proof of this re-approximation was the commemorative concert of his 60 birthday, organized by the administration of the Aargau canton, that took place in July 27th, 1987 in his hometown. In the following year, the Ernst Widmer Society (Ernst Widmer Gesellschaft - was founded in Aarau, with the objective of promoting his work in Switzerland and abroad. It was Widmer's desire that this Society kept his autographs. He also left his copy rights to this Society.




    Widmer's compositional career developed between 1947 and 1989. In these 42 years of intense artistic work, his classified outcome reached 173 opus numbers. Large and varied, his work embodies distinct music genders (didactic, religious, concert, opera, ballet, film and theater), and an enormous diversity of instrumental means with emphasis on chamber formations. Twenty-four of his works won prizes in contests in Brazil and abroad, 8 of which are first prizes winners.

    The permanent move to Brazil, after only 9 years of creative activity in his homeland, signified a decisive mark in the evolution of the composer's style. We may say, therefore, that Widmer's style development and maturity took place in Brazil. At 60, reflecting upon what changed in his music after his moving to Brazil, he said:

    I notice that my language did not change much. It is only much more impregnated with a rhythmic and melodic northeastern presence; I was practically captivated by this. My language changed through association. [...] I turned into a northeastern composer, in the very essence of this thing [1].

    References to the Brazilian ethnic music traditions are constant during his development and maturity, so we cannot help but admit a strong regionalist tendency as one of the essential characteristics of his music. If in 1967, Widmer oficially acquired Brazilian citizenship, the acquisition of a spontaneous Brazilian-ness initiated in 1958 (two years after his arrival in Brazil), when he composed the Bahia-Concerto, op. 17. From that point onwards, aspects of the Brazilian music traditions were always present in his works, associated with distinct references: works from other composers (Dufay, Pierre de la Rue, Palestrina, J. S. Bach, Bartk, W. Burkhard, etc.), folklore of distinct countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Albania, Bulgaria. Yugoslavia, Russia, China, ...), traditional structural models, new philosophical/aesthetic conceptions of the American and European vanguard. This aesthetic miscegenation gave Widmer's work a cosmopolitan, universal character, an eclectic style, the origin of which may be found in the emotional division between the two realities of Widmer's existence: his Swiss origin and his adopted country, with its eclectic culture - black, white and of indigenous influence.

    [1] Text extracted from an interview given to Marcus Gusmo, recorded and partially published in the notes of the concert program dedicated to Widmer's 60 birthday (Bahia Symphony Orchestra, 26/5/87).



    1. Articles:

    Msica erudita, um problema de divulga豫o. Jornal do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, 22 fev. 1969. Caderno B, p. 4.

    Voc sabia? Jornal da Bahia, Salvador, 7-8 jun. 1970. Suplemento A.

    O Ensino da Msica nos Conservatrios. Universitas Revista da UFBA, Salvador, v. 8, p. 175-185, 1971.

    Tentativa de refletir e denunciar sobre 12 maneiras equivocadas de encarar-se arte... ART Revista da Escola de Msica e Artes Cnicas da UFBA, Salvador, n. 1, p. 3-9, abr./jun. 1981.

    Tema e Varia寤es. Jornal da Universidade Federal da Bahia, Salvador, 1983, n. 12.

    Anton Walter Smetak. ART Revista da Escola de Msica e Artes Cnicas da UFBA, Salvador, n. 10, p. 5-7, abr. 1984.

    Clusulas e Cadncias. ART Revista da Escola de Msica e Artes Cnicas da UFBA, Salvador, n. 11, p. 5-44, ago. 1984.

    Travos e Favos. ART Revista da Escola de Msica e Artes Cnicas da UFBA, Salvador, n. 13, p. 63-71, abr. 1985.

    A forma豫o dos compositores contemporneos... contemporneos... contemporneos... 1988, 5 p. (Original datilografado).

    Identidade da Msica Brasileira. 1988, 1 p. (Original datilografado).

    2. Papers delivered in Congresses and Scientific Meetings:

    Grafia e Prtica Sonora. In: SIMPSIO INTERNACIONAL SOBRE A PROBLEM햀ICA DA ATUAL GRAFIA MUSICAL (1. : 1972 : Roma). Anais do... Roma: Instituto talo Latino Americano, 1972. p. 135-163.

    Crtica e Criatividade em 6 Movimentos. Salvador, 1981. (Original datilografado, apresentado na mesa-redonda sobre "Crtica e Criatividade" da XXXIII Reunio Anual da SBPC, em 1981).

    Sauda豫o a Caymmi. In: VEIGA, Manuel, OLIVEIRA, Waldir Freitas de (Eds.). A Msica que Nasce do Povo: homenagem a Caymmi. Salvador: Centro editorial e didtico da UFBA, 1994, p. 13-19. (Proferida por ocasio da concesso do ttulo de Doutor Honoris Causa a Dorival Caymmi pela UFBA, em 7. 12.1984).

    3. Essays:

    Problemas da Difuso Cultural. Cadernos de Difuso Cultural da UFBA, Salvador, n. 5, 1979.

    Paradoxon versus Paradigma: Marginlias da Msica Ocidental do ltimo Milnio III - Falsas rela寤es (1). Salvador: Centro Editorial e Didtico do UFBA, 1988, 89 p.

    4. Theses:

    Bordo e Bordadura. ART Revista da Escola de Msica e Artes Cnicas da UFBA, Salvador, n. 4, p. 9-46, jan./mar. 1982 (concurso ao cargo de Professor Assistente da EMAC/UFBA, realizado em 1970.

    ENTROncamentos SONoros: ensaio a uma didtica da msica contempornea. Salvador, 1972, 11 p. (Concurso ao cargo de Professor Titular), EMAC, UFBA.

    5. Pedagogical Works

    Solfejos. 2 vols. realizados em co-autoria com Sonia Born. Salvador, 1954.

    ENTROncamentos SONoros. A multimidia and educational concert series, with the purpose of presenting contemporary musical language to the general public illustrated by works of the "Grupo de Compositores da Bahia". Salvador - BA, 1973. Widmer conceived the concerts and the presentation of some of the performed works: "Itera寤es" by Jamary Oliveira and "Extrme" by Lindembergue Cardoso.


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