Paul Burkhard

Born: November 21st, 1911, Zurich (Switzerland)
Died: September 6th, 1977, Zell (Switzerland)
Nationality: Swiss

Paul Burkhard studied piano and composition at the Zurich conservatory. Upon his graduation in 1932, he was put in charge of choir rehearsals as well as the orchestra of the Stadttheater in Bern. After having lived and worked in Berlin for two years, he returned to Switzerland in 1939 to become Head of Music at the Schauspielhaus in his native Zurich. From 1944 until 1958, Burkhard was the musical director of the orchestra of Radio Beromünster, the main German-language radio station in Switzerland. In 1959, he withdrew to a new-built house in Zell, where he spent the rest of his life working as a free composer.

Burkhard has left an impressive oeuvre which is testimony to his versatility as a composer. His first success was with an operetta, ‘Hopsa’ (1935). Later, he penned operas, musicals and film scores as well. The 1939 musical ‘Der schwarze Hecht’ contained a song on an old clown, ‘O mein Papa’. It was considered the highlight of the show and was picked up in 1949 by Lys Assia, who re-recorded it. In her version, ‘O mein Papa’ became a huge success in Switzerland and West Germany. In the years after, artists in many different countries made their own versions of it, most prominently – both in 1954 – Eddie Calvert in the UK and Eddie Fisher in the United States, who both scored a number-one-record in their respective countries. Others who recorded ‘O mein Papa’ include Billy Vaughn and Connie Francis. Thus, years after Burkhard had composed the song, it turned out he had been the spiritual father of a world-hit. In the last two decades of his life, Burkhard composed religious works, such as the musical ‘Freu dich mit uns, Jona’, and various oratoria (‘Zäller Wiehnacht’, ‘D’Zäller Glichnis’, etc.).

In 1958, in collaboration with lyricist Fridolin Tschudi (1912-1966), Burkhard wrote the Swiss entry to the Eurovision Song Contest, ‘Giorgio’. This lively song, describing the delights of a weekend in the spa town of Ascona on the Lake Maggiore, scored 24 points in the contest, held in Hilversum that year, resulting in a second place behind France’s André Claveau. The Swiss entry was conducted by Burkhard himself. Judging by the memories of Austrian conductor Willy Fantel, Lys Assia was very disappointed by the result and violently vented her anger on Burkhard. Nevertheless, it turned out that Burkhard had handed Lys Assia a second international success after ‘O mein Papa’. She recorded the song with various orchestras and climbed the hit parades in many European countries.

In due course, a more extensive biography of Paul Burkhard will be published on this website



Songs conducted
1958: Giorgio