H.E. Erwin Walther

“I was born in Amberg in the year 1920 as the son of a primary school teacher. I played piano with 4, violine with 8, viola with 13, French horn with 16 years and was neither a child genius nor abnormal in any other sense. I had a wonderful youth, sun, water, air, forests, meadows and tough games, freedom, and unboundedness, all that determined my further live.
Final exam at Oberrealschule in Amberg, forced labour.
Musical and music historical, philosophical, and medical studies in Würzburg trained my general understanding. War, severe injury, and all that followed in hardship and desperation, the change of one’s own existence by 180 degrees and the “in spite of all that start all over again” made me to the person I am today. The systematic confrontation with the complete modernity, also in natural sciences, took place after 1946. Since only by a very clear idea about the own position exists an artistic orientation, a base for one’s own.
Working as an artist today is tough. Over and over again one has to gnawn oneself through a tangled mass of new -isms and slogans before getting head and arms free. Constantly one has to free oneself from the general marsh, and this is the most difficult.”

H.E. Erwin Walther (approx. 1980)
Composer, Conductor,
Avant-gardist, Music teacher




His father, Ernst Walther, as a student of Joseph Rheinberger was an excellent pianist, and was for decades organist at the Protestant parish church as well as yearlong chorus leader of ‘Sängerbund 1880 Amberg’. He instructed his son from his early youth in piano, harmonics, musical history, and composition. Erwin played piano at the age of four, violine at eight, viola at 13 and French horn at 16 years of age. He was 14 when songs composed by him were first released by public broadcast.

Following his final secondary-school examinations at the latter-day ‘Gregor-Mendel-Gymnasium’ in April 1938 he went to the at that time ‘Bayerische Staatskonservatorium Würzburg’ (Bavarian State-Conservatory Würzburg). Professor Hermann Zilcher immediately included him into his master class for conducting, piano and composition. Simultaneously, Walther studied musical history with professor Oskar Kaul and as minor subject viola with professor Karl Bender. Parallelly and complementary he was inscribed as guest student in philosophy, German language and literature and medicine. Finally, Professor Zilcher referred him to ‘Richard-Strauss-Conservatory’ in Munich. Before he was admitted he was drafted into the German army for service in WW2 in October 1940. In Summer 1941 he suffered a severe injury, based upon which he was discharged from the army. In lieu of that he was commissioned by way of compulsory service for wounded graduates to ‘Studentenführung’ (NS-students organisation) to Bayreuth.

Next to his studies and his beginnings as composer H.E. Erwin Walther was always a practising musician. Already during his time in Würzburg he was, among others, as violist a member of the ‘Schierling-Quartett’ and the ‘Sturm-Quartett’. In the press he was named a ‘renowned pianist’. As that he performed studio concerts during 1949 and 1951, in which he cultivated the art of improvisation, which was at that time almost no more existent. In Summer 1952 Gerd Winkler founded ‘Studiobühne Amberg’ (studio-stage Amberg). As house-composer Erwin Walther wrote and performed from the first day a wide variety of compositions for the productions of ‘Studiobühne’. Gerd Winkler later switched to television, where the second German channel was prepared. Whenever Winkler needed a soundtrack for one of his productions he assigned it to Erwin Walther. Only by Gerd Wikler’s death in August 1978 this cooperation found its end and following that Erwin Walther fell into a deep creative block.


Walther gave instrumental- and school lessons in Gregor-Mendel-Gymnasium, Amberg, from 1967 extra-officially and from 1971 officially. It was only consistent that since this time a variety of compositions were written for the use in the school orchestra. 1985 he retired from his duties.


Text following: Thomas Emmerig: H.E. Erwin Walther: „Ein Musikant vor Gottes Gnaden“, in: Bieler, Emmerig, Kraus, Simon: Komponisten in Bayern, Band 36: H.E. Erwin Walther, Tutzing 1998

1920 born in Amberg/Opf.
1924 first piano lessons by his father Ernst Walther
1928 lessons in violine at home, followed by lessons in viola, violincello, and French horn
1938 secondary school final exam in Amberg
1938 admission into masterclass of Prof. H. Zilcher at Music Conservatory in Würzburg (admission test passed with own violine sonata)
1941 final exam: First performance of own piano concert
1941 draft into German Army, first to Bad Kissingen; superintendence of music corps; later first injury
1942 army-assignment to Russia; through and through bullet injury at right shoulder joint
1944 marriage to Maud Schunk
1945 – 47 captivity as a prisoner of war
1945 birth of son Gerd
starting 1948 frequent performances in Bavarian Broadcast Services, Munich and Nuremberg
1950 foundation of piano studio for private lessons
starting 1950 numerous incidental music works and soundtracks
1958 first performance of coral opus "Liebnarren Kantate" in Bavarian Broadcast Services
1962 – 78 44 TV-films and motion pictures written and directed by Walther's friend Gerd Winkler, for which he composes and conducts the soundtracks; a deep creative block following Winkler's death in 1978
1960 granting of award "Nordgau-Kulturpreis" by City of Amberg
1961 granting of award "Kulturpreis Ostbayern"; birth of daughter Michaela
1966 – 90 composition of around 300 so-called "Audiogramme"; this 'optical music' evolves into an important field of activity
1967 – 85 music teacher at grammar school "Gregor-Mendel-Gymnasium" in Amberg, composing several incidental and festival music works for its school orchestra and school coir
1975 development of a cybernetical, sounding fountain for the school's atrium
1989 granting of award "Kulturpreis 1989 der Stadt Amberg" by City of Amberg
1.1.1995 H.E. Erwin Walther dies after severe illness
1995 City of Amberg appreciates the composer with a memorial concert