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1953

born in Duisburg (Germany)

1974

studies piano, singing and trumpet in Wuppertal (Germany)

since 1979

Musical Collaborator at Tanztheater Wuppertal (since 1995 together with Andreas Eisenschneider)


Biography

Matthias Burkert

was born 1953 in Duisburg, and started piano lessons at the age of six. In 1974 he began studying piano, with trumpet and singing, at the Wuppertal campus of Cologne’s Hochschule für Musik und Tanz. Above all it was Professor Harald Bojé’s integrated approach to teaching piano which spoke to him. Matthias Burkert had a natural, uninhibited relationship to instruments; from an early age improvisation was his great passion, not just on the piano. His attitude to music was playful and experimental.

An all-round talent

He first saw a piece by Pina Bausch in 1975, in Wuppertal, her version of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Although Burkert had no affinity with ballet, the undiluted humanity of Pina Bausch’s contemporary dance language left a deep impression on him. After completing his degree, in 1978 he took up a lecturing post in piano teaching at his college. He had already become musical director of the children’s and youth theatre in Wuppertal in 1976, a position he retained till 2001. Alongside this he gave private piano lessons. Pina Bausch took him on in 1979, initially as the répétiteur for their daily training sessions. Soon, however, his role changed. Pina Bausch was in the process of redefining not only the thematic and choreographic aspects of dance but also its musical dimension and needed help researching music, with dramaturgical questions around music and with generating narrative arcs. This was still technically challenging at the time. Finding unusual music was also difficult. Burkert combed record shops in Wuppertal and beyond, contacted radio archives and private collectors. Sometimes up to four tape players were running simultaneously during performances to ensure rapid changeovers.

Trial and error

Burkert’s first collaboration with Pina Bausch was Bandoneon, in 1980. She had brought back a wealth of material from a South-American tour which needed sorting out. Where necessary Burkert also composed pieces of his own. The extensive tours and resulting coproductions changed the musical work. During research on location each time new musical horizons were opened up. The trick here was to allow the musical soul of a country to be heard without becoming folkloristic.

The dances and scenes were almost always created independently of the music, which was added later. Here, as with dance theatre generally, a persistent process of trial and error was required. Pina Bausch frequently asked Burkert to replace all the rehearsal music with completely new pieces. Some music stood the test, at other times a completely new perspective was generated.

Matthias Burkert was part of the rehearsal process from the start, collecting music, sorting it according to character and atmosphere or with particular dancers in mind. Pina Bausch repeatedly integrated him into her pieces, sometimes with musical appearances, and together with him she controlled the musical temperature of the shows as they unfolded.

In 1995 he was joined by Andreas Eisenschneider. Today they complement each other, an experienced team taking responsibility for the music. The pair were jointly credited for musical direction on Wim Wenders’ Film Pina.

Text by Norbert Servos
Translated by Steph Morris


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season 1979/80

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