Willy Burkhard (1900-1955) ranks amongst those Swiss composers of the first half of the 20th century whose work achieved widespread recognition at home and abroad. His music, characterised by late Romantic forms of expression and the increasing prevalence of tonal systems, steered largely clear of the avant-garde tendencies of the day. This is illustrated by the catalogue of his works and its emphasis on chamber and choral music (holdings of the IDS Luzern). Born near Biel, Burkhard studied piano and composition in Bern, then Leipzig (under Robert Teichmüller and Sigfrid Karg-Elert), Munich (Walter Courvoisier) and Paris (Max d’Ollone). He then took up a post teaching theory in Bern. In 1933 Burkhard was diagnosed with a lung disease, which obliged him to spend considerable lengths of time in the spa resorts of Montana and Davos. Following his recovery, he settled in Zurich in 1942, where he was to teach theory and composition at the Conservatory until his death. Amongst Burkhard's pupils were Klaus Huber and Rudolf Kelterborn, who were in the vanguard of the next generation of Swiss composers.
Thanks to a private gift, the music library of the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts is now in possession of a collection of letters sent by the composer to the Indermühle family. About 180 letters and 40 postcards, part of the estate of the Indermühle family, contain information on the life and work of Burkhard inasmuch as they are addressed to close friends (see photo above: Fritz Indermühle [left] and Willy Burkhard). On the other hand, by documenting over three decades of the composer's life from ambitious student to renowned master of his craft, the correspondence contributes to complementing the biographical and artistic appreciation of Burkhard. A substantial portion of the collection finds Burkhard describing his protracted illness. The collection of correspondence has been made accessible, inventoried and archived in cooperation with the Institute for Educational Research and Development (research topic Music Pedagogy). A selection of the digitised material may be viewed below.