Death of a German symphonist, 73

The composer Heinz Winbeck whose five symphonies were published by Bärenreiter and performed by Dennis Russell Davies among others, has died in a Regensburg hospital.

An influential professor at Würzburg, he was Composer in Residence” at the Cabrillo Festival in California.


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  • Oh, what a sadness! He probably was the last great German traditional symphonist. His Fifth symphony has a coda that is 10 full minutes long!

    • That is not a coda, but an apotheosis and a marvellous one, it sounds like something Bruckner had written if he had lived much longer and had gathered some overdosis of courage. (The beginning motive stems from Siegfried’s funeral music from Wagner’s ‘Götterdämmerung’.) That symphony is, by the way, an interesting experiment in how much 20C composers can get back to premodernist aesthetics. Unfinished sketches of Bruckner IX then form the material of an exploration. You can hear it’s not easy but this was a very courageous and independent composer. His name is not well-known – we know why that is.

      • Technically, it *is* a coda, very much in the mould of the coda of the first movement of Beethoven’s Ninth (the model of Bruckner’s codas, which are of course eight times more expansive).

  • I’m ashamed to say, before this post I knew nothing about this composer. It would seem, upon listening to the Fifth, that my existence up until now has been a barren one.

    Unfortunately not much of Winbeck’s music has been recorded, or if it has, it is all out of print. Within minutes of finishing the Fifth, I ordered the First (all that’s currently available), which is coupled with the String Quartet No. 2. Thankfully there is a lot posted on YouTube.

    So much wonderful music in the world. It is one of life’s great tragedies that one will never be able to hear all of it. And the chances of hearing Winbeck’s symphony in a concert hall? Unless he’s taken up by Neeme Järvi or JoAnn Falletta, forget about it.

    • Such works are serious undertakings, entirely different from the usual ‘hip’ and ‘trendy’ which is so much more popular with orchestras when they decide to play something contemporary. What’s in a name? Heinz Winbeck apparently tried to win back something that had been lost in the last century.

      • I don’t know the Fourth symphony, but as a matter of fact the First, the Second, and the Third, while all very good and interesting, are much more conventionally modern than the Fifth, which is a uniquely radical and daring piece of music.

  • My dear fellows, I really have to thank you for your kind and deep words on him! Concerning Heinz Winbeck, not only I have lost a father, who wasn’t only great as a composer, but also as much as a human being! And as such he really lived the philosophical topic of Mahlers symphonies! In
    my biggest existential crisis’ he helped without any hesitation. He felt with every creature and welcomed it to live and dye as natural and beloved as possible on his sanctuary. He was our conscience. We will miss him terribly!

    All five Symphonies will soon be published on CD:

    Best regards, Daniel Hensel, former student

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