Gerster, Ottmar (1897-1969)


* 1897 Braunfels, Hesse - † Borsdorf, Leipzig

From 1913 to 1920, Ottmar Gerster attended the Hoch's Conservatory in Frankfurt am Main, where he studied the violin under Adolf Rebner and composition under Bernhard Sekles. One of his contemporaries there was Paul Hindemith. During the First World War, Gerster interrupted his studies for a period of military service. He then started as a violinist with the Frankfurt Symphony Orchestra, and went on to become solo viola player from 1923 to 1927.

For the next 20 years, Gerster taught at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen. He was also choir leader for the Deutscher Arbeiter Sängerbund (German Worker's Choral Association). Although Gerster's Opera Die Hexe von Passau ("The Witch of Passau") was banned after its first performance in Düsseldorf in 1941, he was later included in Hitler's "Gottbegnadeten-Liste" (the so-called "god-gifted list") which exempted him from military service.

After 1945, Gerster found himself on the blacklist of the occupying American army. He moved to the Soviet occupation zone, joined the SED, became Rector of the Music Academy in Weimar, and founded the "Verband der Komponisten und Musikwissenschaftler" (GDR association of German composers and musicologists). He later accepted a professorship at the University of Music and Theatre in Leipzig. He received a number of state honours for his work in the GDR and, in 1984, the Leipzig district music school was renamed "Musik- und Kunstschule Ottmar Gerster".

Ottmar Gerster composed chamber music and orchestral works, including three symphonies, songs for the masses, the operas Enoch Arden (1936), Die Hexe von Passau ("The Witch of Passau", 1941), Das verzauberte Ich ("The Enchanted Self", 1949), Der fröhliche Sünder ("The Merry Sinner", 1963), and a ballet, Der ewige Kreis ("The Eternal Circle"). His works were published by Schott Music.

Further information (in German):
Bundesstiftung zur Aufarbeitung der SED-Diktatur, Biographische Datenbanken „Wer war wer in der DDR? Ein Lexikon ostdeutscher Biographien“.(Biography database "Who was who in the GDR?" of the Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship.) For the online version, please visit:

Musik- und Kunstschule Otmar Gerster:

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