Peter Wittrich

Composer

Germany

Author

About

The merging together of craftsmanship, inspiration and accessibility – the three pillars of artistic creation – confer upon each individual piece an unmistakable sound quality, which I see as the indispensable goal of any kind of contemporary composition. (My) music should communicate as rationally as a polished literary text, with the emotional impact of an atmospheric picture. (Peter Wittrich)

Peter Wittrich was born in Freising in Northern Bavaria on 28 November 1959. After his school-leaving exams he initially began training as a secondary school teacher at the Munich Academy of Music; soon afterwards he began to study composition with Professor Dieter Acker at the same institution, graduating with a master’s diploma.

While still a student he started winning prizes in composition, including first prize at the 1985 Erding international organ festival for the organ piece Fantasia on D-Eb-C-A. Numerous other prizes followed, especially for choral and instrumental works, such as a first prize for his ‘Sixteenth-Century Drinking Song’ in the composition class at the international Franz Schubert Choral Festival in Vienna (1997), first prize awarded by the Franz Josef Reinl Foundation in Vienna for Segnali capricciosi for trumpet and orchestra (1998) and first prize in 1999 at the international competition for European church music in Schwäbisch Gmünd with Hymnal Motet, a composition for choir and organ.

From 1989 until 2004 Peter Wittrich was a full-time lecturer in music theory at the College of Music and Drama in Munich; since 2004 he has been Professor of music theory and piano studies for schoolteachers at the same college.

The main focus of his creative work is in choral works, church music and instrumental pieces. In addition, he is particularly keen on engagement in education, composing for children and for young people. With his ensemble Solisti Deo Gloria and the Peter Wittrich-x-tett, in parallel with the introduction of the new German Catholic hymnal he presents a varied palette of new song arrangements and re-compositions, producing extraordinary arrangements of dance music and light entertainment pieces.

This stylistic range is also reflected in his compositions. Chorales and the tradition of motet-writing are combined with jazz elements (Organ Blues, Missa in Blue), traditional melodies are set within highly structured compositions, some of them subtly infused with a hint of irony (Christmas Sonata) and contemporary detail is merged with archaically traditional foundations in a style that goes straight to the roots of the emotions.

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Interview

What does music mean to you personally?

It is a universal language with which I can express content and especially emotions that are not possible with words.

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

For me, besides the imagination, the craft is very important! Imagination alone is not enough for me, it has to be controlled and regulated through knowledge of harmony, counterpoint, forms, etc. Mere fantasy ends in arbitrariness, in the arbitrary, since it lacks the artistically mature impetus!

If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?

Maybe a writer, but I wanted to be a musician very early on!

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about the future?

No, not at all! But we have to ensure that children and young people are made familiar with this music now, as this has unfortunately been clearly neglected in recent years. There is an urgent need to catch up!

What do you envision the role of music to be in the 21st century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?

We immediately need new concert formats that are intended to appeal to future generations. Many young people grew up only with pop / rock / soul / rap music, at most with folk music. So-called New Music is too elitist, too complicated and far removed from the usual higher experiences. Often given a pseudo-intellectual claim, it serves a small circle of insiders. Good music of the coming years will convince through closeness to the listener and comprehensible standards, which must not lose the pulse of the times!

Do you think that the musician today needs to be more creative? What is the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

Creativity is extremely important, but without the corrective of craftsmanship it must not wander into the blue! A table can have innovative shapes, but it still has to stand on solid legs, otherwise it will fall over and be unusable. A good composition must meet the same requirements. Simply writing notes without formal calculation, without compositional craftsmanship is not much good.

Do you think we as musicians can do something to attract the younger generation to music concerts? How would you do this?

As I said above, it is important to develop new concert formats. A “stiff” presentation in a black suit would probably be a hindrance; rather, the musicians should radiate liveliness and joy instead of presenting stressed faces. Interaction with the auditorium would be desirable not only with children.

Tell us about your creative process. What is your favorite piece (written by you) and how did you start working on it?

The current favorite is The Little Prince, both in the piano version and in the concert version that has just been completed. Under the name Concerto poetico for solo percussion and 10 instruments, I have combined parts from the two-hand and four-hand piano cycle into a full-length concert with narrator and singing percussionist. In addition to concerted movements, there is a lot of sung and narration, but also interactive sections with the audience. It is a piece for all generations, which was very important to me at work and which seemed to me to be optimally feasible with the world-famous story. The world premiere will take place in March in Heidelberg with the soloist Simone Rubino as “singer-drummer”!

Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?

Be awake, stay curious, be free from prejudice - these are important prerequisites for a first step. Just show courage and swap the mainstream for a new experience.

Do you think about the audience when composing?

As I already indicated with the Prince, it is important not to leave the audience out, but to involve them. Personally, the performers are even more important to me! After all, they are the first to make the score sound!