Walter Wurzburger   1914 — 1995

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a moving document with so much self-awareness (without self-pity) and a great sense of time passing, a life being lived....

‘Book of Tasks’
(a notebook that Walter kept sporadically between 1965 and 1994)

4 Aug 1965

Just back from Darmstadt. Already 2 days have elapsed and not a thing done. It is always good to see other people doing things and getting things done with tremendous energy. Whatever makes them tick is not so important. On the contrary, at a closer look one might be very disillusioned about their motives. What matters here in the case of WEW is that he wants to write better music and more of it than hitherto and ways and means will have to be found to make this possible. A matter of TECHNIQUE, PRACTICE, PLANNING, ORGANISATION! All practical things!

This book has been started to help the memory and to carry out the planning, help clear the decks and keep them clear, put down all the practical matters which need attention. This book, then, will show lists of things to be done, and of those actually carried out, and also the sad discrepancy between the two. It will show musical and extramusical matter, domestic, perhaps even when the washing was done. Anything that may help to get things moving. With these good intentions this book has been started.

The way will reveal itself as we go on. Start with accumulation of material.

Clear the decks. That means first of all clear the table, sort out papers and other rubbish, tidy up in general, but do not get too involved as one can spend days on these matters alone.

Do the necessary only. Do it now. The time is 10.10 on Wednesday 4-8-65.

Time is 13.20. Only achieved a rough sorting out of a staggering heap of papers, mainly rubbish on sideboard in kitchen. Anyhow a beginning is made.

Most urgent tasks for the near future:
  1. clarinet practice (for Music Camp 27-8-65)
  2. guitar piece: add dynamics. Copies to be made. 1 copy to
    WILHELM BRUCK 5038 MICHAELSHAVEN BEI KÖLN THOMASHAUS (pupil of BOETTER, very good player, was interested)
  3. finish pieces for 4 horns
  4. scores of works discussed by Boulez at Darmstadt
    WEBERN OP 21, Op 24, Op 6 No 3, Op 30
    SCHOENBERG Op 22, Op 16, Op 31
    Orchestral analysis w/ help of notes taken
Domestic tasks:
  1. finish clearing up
  2. Address book
  3. Tax return (outstanding for 4 years!!)
  4. Catalogue of scores in possession
Be brave: send in scores to
Publishers ? Oxford Univ Press

Some clarinet practice was done.


A wild and disorganized day, but perhaps not quite wasted. Dynamics for guitar piece were put in. Reading Dahlhaus on “Notation”. Improvising on piano and clarinet practice. Enjoyable if not productive

Rec’d letter from Beuttel (Frl.) - must be answered (or must it be?)

(it was not)


TWELVE YEARS AND 8 MONTHS have elapsed. Just came across this book and read the preceding 3 pages. They sound as if they make sense. But then the book was lost, no further follow up. Why? Now the situation is very much the same in many respects. Pathetic. Or are we not all living that way? Quite a few of us do. No excuse.

Let’s see what happened in the meantime, without the book. (By the way, I have just started to clear the table again. Tables are always full of rubbish and stop you from doing things. Subconscious sabotage?)

Now since nearly 13 years has flown down the Thames what has happened to the Wurzburger household? First of all it has become a household, of sorts. I got married to Hannah – I had not even known her at the time this book was begun. We brought up the twins. We went through a number of illnesses some of them severe. We have now a house with a number of rooms that need clearing up, or so everyone seems to think. We did not starve. We had some fun. We had psychological difficulties and treatment but H. more than I but perhaps I need it too. What worries me more is that my body does not function quite so well now. Arteriosclerosis, angina, odd attacks of lumbago. I won’t say anything about H’s troubles as this book is not about her. It is not really about anyone, but is supposed to be A BOOK OF TASKS. The primary task is to clear the mind about what should be done and how best to do it.

Musicwise. A number of things were done against all odds. Composition. I am trying to recall from memory. A number of E.S.s (educational studies) for 2-5 instruments and also a few single studies. Then KLAVIERSTUCK I (published) II (PHOTOCOPIES). III is on the stocks and so is another work for 2 pianos. Both almost finished but need revision and dynamics. I think DOUBLE WIND QUINTET was written in 1967 therefore falls in the period under discussion. It was performed and recorded (private record made at BBC studios) together with Quintet 1946 and the two Septets 1960, 1962. But nothing much came of it. I did send a few scores to SPNM but was not selected ( I think 2 or 3 years ago, ought to try again but I am quite weary about these things now). What else have I written? Worked for a while on orchestral score (MOSAIC) but abandoned, also on a Bassoon Concerto, likewise abandoned. Then there is HAPPY BIRTHDAY variations for piano, perhaps not to be taken too seriously, nor were they ever finished. The HORN quartet was finished, of course, but never played, nor were the 2 movements of a string quartet (1965?) ever tried out therefore there was neither urge nor need to complete it. Apart from that I cannot remember any more compositions either started or finished during that period. Altogether a rather meagre and disorganized output. Not altogether hopeless though, it seems to me that some of the stuff is as good or better than some of the works performed in the professional world. But is this sour grapes or some sort of arrogance which is not altogether warranted. Mátyás Seiber used to say I lack confidence. I am afraid I still do. But I am somewhat more confident in my own judgment than I used to be. I still seem to learn a little bit from one work to the next - when there is one.

H. has great talent but no confidence. We should really both sit here, day and night, work creatively, paint and write music, not asking what it is for, or what else ought to be done. One can always find something else to do which excuses you from doing any creative work because it is the hardest work of all.

I found something else to do which I have been doing for the last 4 years and which has taken up much of my time. The orchestra. I cannot leave it alone now since it functions, after a fashion although it brings with it a lot of trouble. Vanity? Or simply hope for musical expression which could not find an outlet elsewhere? There is also the excuse that one learns a lot about music from another point of view, the conductor's, and also a great deal about people, for what it's worth.

I also have become a little better in teaching, by force of circumstances, although my playing itself has not improved, but probably gone back a bit, both on clarinet and bassoon. That I had to give up all my orchestral connections (as a player) since I cannot take the bassoon around any more did not help.

On should really make a virtue of these failings and accordingly reorganise (“restructure”) ones commitments and whole lifestyle. This is one of the most urgent tasks. Settle down to something! What are you? What are you in the first place? Concentrate on that and get down and do it. We are really here at the same crossroads (or dilemma?) as many years ago and nothing has been solved. Sensible people solve this problem before they are 30 and then they are not going back. But we are not sensible. And perhaps if we were we might be so much more boring. Can't have everything. Cleared the mind?


Another 10 years and a bit have elapsed since the last entry. This is gradually becoming a record of tasks not fulfilled. But we are all like that (not all but many!): great intentions and in the end little to show. It is my 74th (!) birthday to-day and I had many phone-calls (mainly relatives) some nice birthday cards and a few presents (from the family). Next year some kind friends (Chris Gordon, Colin Docwra and Jane Matthews) want to organize a concert of my music, possibly at St. John’s Smith Square. Sounds ambitious, I wonder if it will happen? There should now be sufficient material to fill a programme, but many other hurdles have still to be overcome. Here is a little example: To book the hall the administrators among other things require proof of and reports on performances of my works. Now I know that there a few of those available (e.g. HILTON TIMS in the SURREY COMET on the 1. perf. of CONCERTINO for Violin and orch (1983) and my PIANO CONCERTO (1984) both by KINGSTON PHILHARMONIA) but I cannot just lay my hands on them. I cannot ever find the things I want to find when I do. Something very wrong in the organization here. I think this failure has been referred to earlier in these jottings.

To bring up to date the list of works that were actually completed. Apart from the 2 above-named concertos which had their 1. perf. (so far the only one in case of the P.C., the Concertino was again played in the same year at Music Camp, both perf. with JOHN CRAWFORD as soloist, Sally MAYS soloist in the P.C.) in KINGSTON PARISH CHURCH, and I conducted the K.P., apart from these 2 works: KLAVIERSTÜCKE now up to no 5. No 4 was perf. by PETER LAWSON on 8 March 83 at the BRITSH MUSIC INFORMATION CENTRE (BMIC), a small hall (room) which holds about 40 people, but P.L. is a 1st class pianist and did it beautifully. Then there were (not necessarily in that order) 2 pieces for viola, probably written for MATTHEW KELLY, one with piano and on unaccompanied. He played the latter at BRIGHTON University. I did not hear it. Piece for 2 pianos (have I mentioned it before?) LIBBY CRANDON had teamed up with somebody as a piano duet and I thought they might also play on 2 pianos. This did not happen and the work was never played. A SAXOPHONE QUARTET gave much trouble to write, particularly the copying, was played in my home by friends, and a tape made. No public perf. Since we are on lists: 10 studies for CLARINET SOLO, still only in pencil. Chris Gordon (JANUS WIND MUSIC) published books 1 & 2 of Rounds at which I collaborated. Then my OP3 (ES3) & 4 as TWO BAGATELLES FOR 3 CLARINETS and ES2 for CL & Ob, formerly published by THAMES MUSIC (BISHOP), republished by Janus as FANFARE-TOCCATA. No sales, Janus publications now defunct. I hope it was not my fault. Before that happened, Chris ask me to write some educational pieces, in different styles, for FL. & CL (baroque, classical and romantic). This took me a whole year (1986) – was not published in the end. Then came a string quartet (should I call it No 4?) written early 1987 and offered to the Medici Quartet. Clear parts were only recently available and I have not heard anything yet. But they already warned me that they are too busy at the moment and also tied down by contract. I also gave another set (the other set!) to SARAH HEDLEY-MILLER who might form a quartet with Matthew Kelly and friends for the occasion. So perhaps it may be heard in due course. But in about a fortnight or 3 weeks I am due for this operation, long avoided finally decided on: BY-PASS. In the meantime Madeleine has asked me to write something for her and it became VLN-SONATA for MADELEINE, a bit difficult, but I am sure she will eventually master it. In the meantime it is planned to perf. it (JOHN CRAWFORD) on Nov 1 at a joint concert at the BMIC. For that occasion I also wrote a short (1 mvt) Quartet for OB VLN VA & piano for these instr. are supposed to be available at this occasion. And another joint concert is planned at OCTOBER GALLERY (slightly larger venue with 80 seats, but very nice). This should be in Jan 89, a recital by SALLY MAYS. Now I have to get her the music, as she will be away during summer on an Australian tour. Probably Klavierstücke 4 & 5.

Our daughters have grown up. Ruth very gifted for Art, studies at BRISTOL ART COLLEGE. Will now go for 6 weeks to France on an exchange visit. Madeleine reading English at Reading University, but is not very happy there. Reasonably good standard in violin, plays in the KINGSTON PHIL, and also at the Univ orch. Wants to write.

Hannah is near the end of an Hist of Art extra-mural course. She finds writing essays very difficult, but when she finally gets them done comes up with good marks. As far as her art work is concerned, position as earlier described. Lots of talent, but little confidence (like myself!?) Too selfcritical. Lately attended etching class and came up with some good work there.


It is the first day of summer today, but of the next year again. So exactly 14 months later. And what 14 months. They were quite eventful. As you can see from the handwriting, something must have happened to me. In the last entry I mentioned the pending operation. Well it has been and all gone wrong and I am still recovering from it and lucky to be here. Operation successful (so they say) but patient suffered stroke. Lots of things were tried out, but maybe not enough. At first, of course, it was much worse. Eyesight was down to minimum (tunnel & double vision), I could not walk unaided and not do anything for myself. Now it is a bit better but it is over a year since the operation (15-5-88) and I still do not venture out alone. Poor Hannah has to bear the brunt of my disability. I am not playing clarinet nor bassoon now. I did try the clarinet for a while some months ago, but it was too heartbreaking. Perhaps I should have persevered. I did some work on the piano, although it was never my instrument, and find it still useful for composition, wretched as it is. As far as compos. is concerned that has yet to be proved since the 2 works I came up with this year have not seen the light of day. I mean they are copied out but have not been played. Maybe my brain has all gone funny like my hands and my feet, who knows? We are talking about Klavierstück VI and a Cello Sonata (traditional style) for Betty Lewis.

The good news is that we had 2 concerts last January (these were concerts of chamber music at the BMIC, postponed from Nov 88, and the planned Piano recital by Sally Mays).


Just a short note since the book fell into my hands 5½ years on. I am clearing up (out) once again and you never know what will fall into your hands. But I saw that thing about concerts in the last entry. Nothing much since I am afraid, at least not if one considers the amount of time elapsed. My string quartet No 4 was chosen by SPNM for a performance at Manchester at a Composers’ Forum. That was in July 89. My Concertino for violin (as it then was, in the meantime enlarged into a concerto) got another airing with KINGSTON PHIL, also the Piano Concerto. That was all. Now by mutual agreement I have retired from KP. Writing is more difficult now but certain things were done: another Str Qu (5), a clarinet Qu, an overture and a suite for string orch., a few songs, Klavierstücke up to no 11 (not copied out yet). A lot of time was spent with copying and correcting parts. That work seems never to finish and now the clearing up. I do not know if I make it this time, not to speak of letter writing and what not. Hannah is doing a great job in spite of her poor health.