Gerhard Wuensch | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Gerhard Wuensch

Gerhard (Joseph) Wuensch. Composer, musicologist, pianist, b Vienna (or Klosterneuburg, Austria?) 23 Dec 1925, naturalized Canadian 18 Dec 1980, d London, Ont 8 Jun 2007; Ph D musicology (Vienna) 1950, Artist Diplomas piano and composition (Academy of Music, Vienna) 1952.

Wuensch, Gerhard

Gerhard (Joseph) Wuensch. Composer, musicologist, pianist, b Vienna (or Klosterneuburg, Austria?) 23 Dec 1925, naturalized Canadian 18 Dec 1980, d London, Ont 8 Jun 2007; Ph D musicology (Vienna) 1950, Artist Diplomas piano and composition (Academy of Music, Vienna) 1952. Gerhard Wuensch studied piano as a child. During World War II he served in the German army, and was taken prisoner. Later, he studied at the Academy of Music in Vienna under Josef Marx, and at Vienna's State Academy of Music. His Ph D thesis was on the German composer Max Reger. Wuensch was a freelance accompanist and a staff composer 1951-4 for the Austrian radio network. He studied further 1954-6 at the University of Texas with Paul Pisk and Kent Kennan on a Fulbright Fellowship and taught at Butler University, Indianapolis 1956-63, at the University of Toronto 1964-9, at the University of Calgary 1969-73, and at the University of Western Ontario 1973-91, where he was chairman 1973-6 of the theory and composition department. In 1972 Wuensch received a Canada Council research fellowship for work on a book about Max Reger. He also prepared a CBC radio series, 1968-9, on Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern.

Wuensch's Compositions

While Wuensch was at Butler University his Mosaic won first prize at the Syracuse Fine Arts Festival. Written in Canada, his Music without Pretensions (premiered at the 1970 Guelph Spring Festival), Alberta Set, and Prelude, Aria and Fugue were written for the free-bass accordionist Joe Macerollo and contributed significantly to the accordion repertoire. Among his works for large ensemble, the Laus Sapientiae cantata was broadcast in 1978 for the centennial of the University of Western Ontario, the Concerto for two pianos and orchestra was performed by the Victoria Symphony Orchestra in 1982, and the Concerto for bassoon and chamber orchestra was premiered in 1984 by Gabor Janota and the MAV Orchestra at the Academy of Music, Budapest.

Several of Wuensch's works were premiered in the 1990s, eg, the chamber opera Nice People (Nov 1991), Pygmalion (29 Jan 1995), and Scherzino (27 Oct 1996), all in London, Ont. He was commissioned in 1992 to write a cantata for the monastery in Waldhausen, Austria. Other Wuensch works were performed in Michigan (1995); Illinois and Arizona (1996); Festival International du Domaine Forget (1996); China (1996); and Budapest, Hungary (1997). Wuensch's piano compositions and arrangements have appeared in pedagogical series and on the recording Musique canadienne pour jeunes pianistes (CMC CD 426, 1997). His In Modo Antiquo was recorded by Jerome Summers on Flight of the Nightingale (Marquis Classics CD 638, 2001).

Wuensch was a practical eclectic who evaded allegiance but whose skills equipped him to move easily and with a certain amused detachment through many styles. More committed than a parodist, more practically involved than a critic, he nevertheless comes across in his compositions as an intentionally commentative artist rather than an originator.

He was an associate of the Canadian Music Centre, the Canadian League of Composers, and CAPAC. His papers are held at the University of Calgary.

Selected Compositions

Labyrinth, Opus 7, ballet. 1957. Ms

Il Pomo d'Oro, Opus 9, comedy-ballet (Allegra Stewart). 1958. Ms

'Nice People': Three Scenes from Contemporary Life, chamber opera (Ann Fiske). 1990. Ms


'The programme sonatas of J.L. Dusik [Dussek],' CAUSM J, vol 1, Fall 1971

'Spielformen in Regers Klaviermusik,' Mitteilungen des Max-Reger-Instituts, Bonn, Jul 1971

'Max Reger's choral cantatas,' AGO and RCCO Music, vol 6, Feb 1972

"Hugo Riemann's musical theory," Studies in Music (U of Western Ont) 2, 1977

Max Reger (1873-1916): A Second Look (Westport, Connecticut 1989)

Orchestra and Band

Nocturne, Opus 6. 1956. Orch. Ms

Variations on a Dorian Hexachord, Opus 10. 1959. Orch. Ms

Symphony No. 1, Opus 12. 1959. Ms

Symphony in E Flat, Opus 14. 1960. Band. Ms. (Selections) 1985. College Band Directors National Association CBDNA-85-7 (cass) (U of Oregon Wind Ens, W. Bennett dir)

Symphony, Opus 35. 1967. Brass, percussion. Ms

Serenade for a Summer Evening, Opus 89. 1986. Orch. Ms

Variations and Fugue on a Mozartian Theme, Opus 92. 1986. Band. Ms

Soloist(s) with Orchestra

Piano Concerto, Opus 7. 1961. Ms

Ballad, Opus 19. 1962. Tpt, orch. Ms

Concerto, Opus 57. 1971. Pf, chamber orch. Ms

Scherzo, Opus 58. 1971. Pf, wind ensemble. Ms

Concerto, Opus 69. 1976. Bn, chamber orch. Ms

Laus sapientiae, Opus 72 (Bible). 1977. Sop, tenor, bar, SATB, organ, brass choir, orch. Ms

Concerto, Opus 76. 1976. Org, 3 tpts, timp, strings. R.M. Eagan, Minneapolis 1993

Concerto, Opus 81: Ad Usum Ligorum. 1981. 2 piano, orch. Ms


Trio, Opus 1. 1948. Cl, bassoon, piano. Ms

Sonatina, Opus 15. 1963. Va, piano. Ms

Music for Seven Brass Instruments, Opus 27. 1966. WIM 1972

Four Mini-Suites, Opus 42. 1968. Acc. Wat 1969. (No. 2) AFA-20-863 (A. Abbott)/(excerpts) RCI 385 (Macerollo)

Polysonics, Opus 44. 1969. Variable instr. Kerby 1986

Cameos, Opus 46a. 1969. Fl, piano. Leeds 1971. (Excerpts) 2-Dom S-69006 (Aitken fl)

Music without Pretensions, Opus 45. 1969. Acc, string quartet. Ms

Six Songs, Opus 47 (various texts). 1970. V, fl, accordion. Ms

Suite, Opus 40. 1970. Tpt, organ. WIM 1972. (1976). Avant AV-1014 (A. Plog trumpet, M. Swearingen organ)/RCI 406 (A. Laberge organ)

Variations, Opus 52. 1971. Cl, piano. Kerby 1985

Six Duets, Opus 53. 1971. Fl, clarinet. Kerby 1985

Prelude, Aria and Fugue, Opus 54. 1971. Acc, brass quartet. Ms

Musica Giocosa, Opus 70. 1976. Fl, piano. Ms

Menage à Trois, Opus 96. 1987. Vn, clarinet, piano. Ms

Recyclings, Opus 98. 1989. Tuba, horn, piano. Ms

Scherzino. 1996. Cl, bn, piano

Trio. 1999. Piano, cl, bn

Cinq pour trois. 2002. Cl, bn, piano

Tryptych. 2004. Oboe, piano

Many other works, including 2 string quartets (1953, 1963) and 2 woodwind quintets (1963, 1967), works for horn and piano, clarinet and piano, fl and piano, and several for solo accordion, including Alberta Set (1971, B&H 1972)


Esquisse, Opus 2. 1950 (rev 1970). Ms

Mini Suite No. 1. 1969. Leeds 1969, B&H 1985. ('Voices from the Past') 2-Dom S-69002 (Mould)

Twelve Glimpses into 20th Century Idioms, Opus 37. 1969. Leeds 1969, B&H 1985. ('The Big Leap Forward,' 'Rain Clouds') Dom S-69002 (Mould)

Valses nostalgiques, Opus 61. 1972. Pf 4-hands. Ms

Mini Suite No. 2, Opus 71. 1976. Leeds 1979, B&H 1985

Sonata. 1977. Pf 4-hands. Ms

Sonatina. 1977. Ms

Ping Pong Anyone, Opus 91. 1986. FH 1986

Several other works for piano, organ, and harpsichord (some educational), some published by Avant, Leeds, Wat, WIM including Toccata Piccola for organ (WIM 1963) recorded by D. Mervyn Games (1983, Savvy S-1001) and Canaduets: 15 Folksongs and Patriotic Songs of Canada for 2 piano (B&H 1987)

Choir and Voice

Symphonia sacra, Opus 30 (1st Epistle of St John). 1961. Sop, bar, SATB, brass, percussion, organ. Ms

Vexilla regis prodeunt, Opus 36 (J. Skelton). 1968. Soli, SATB, organ. WIM 1968

Fragments: Beach, Opus 63 (M. Atwood). 1972. SAB. Ms

Songs, Lieder and Melodies, Opus 82. 1982. Cl, voice, piano. Ms

Four Episodes from St. John, Opus 95 (Smallbridge). 1988. Soli, SATB, congregation, organ. Ms

Pygmalion, Opus 98 (libretto John Smallbridge). 1989. Bar, string quartet. Ms

Four Songs for baritone and piano (texts by James Joyce). 1990

Noel d'Accord. 1992. SATB choir, 2 tpt, horn, tbn, tuba. Ms

Psalm 150. 1993. 3 tpt, tbn, organ, mixed chorus, baritone. Ms

Psalmus CL: Cantata. 1993. Bass-baritone, chorus, organ, 2 tpt, flugelhorn, tbn

Salad Days. 1993. 3-part women's choir, piano

Seasonings - Four Poems (lyrics Ann Fiske). 1994. Voice, piano

Five German Songs

Also Reflections of Canada vol. 1 and 2 (1986) for choir

Further Reading