Jürg Wyttenbach was born in 1935 in Bern, Switzerland. From 1945 to 1954 he attended the Bern Conservatory and took lessons in piano with Kurt von Fischer and music theory with Sándor Veress. At the Conservatoire National in Paris Wyttenbach studied piano with Yvonne Lefébure and chamber music with Joseph Calvet until 1957. Two years later, in Hanover, Germany, he obtained a concert diploma as a student of Karl Engel.
Wyttenbach then picked up teaching, first at the music school in Biel, and from 1962 at the Bern Conservatory. From 1967 he taught piano at the Basel Music Academy, and between 1970 and 2001 he taught a class on the interpretation of contemporary music.
Even though Wyttenbach dedicated himself to composition as a young man, his early works being influenced by Bartók and Stravinsky, in the 70s he distinguished himself as an important pianist and conductor of contemporary music, premiering more than one hundred works. Wyttenbach is particularly committed to the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen. His interpretations of Stockhausen’s “Mantra” and Arnold Schoenberg’s “Pierrot lunaire,” as well as works by Elliott Carter, proved especially impactful.
In 1987, together with Rudolf Kelterborn and Heinz Holliger, Wyttenbach founded the “Basler Forum.” Like Paul Sacher’s “Basler Kammerorchester,” the “Basler Forum” is dedicated to the performance of contemporary music.
Wyttenbach is closely associated with other musicians, not only as a performer but also as an active composer; most of his works were written for musician friends. Their role as musical interpreters is redefined as “multifarious,” and Wyttenbach’s musical forms as well transcend inherent boundaries. The same is true for Wyttenbach’s concept of the “instrumental theater.” Already his early works are characterized by a “gestural-dramatic” disposition which finds expression in his “music actions” and in his “instrumental theater.” He aims to depict existential problems by exploring novel music-dramatic ideas.
In 1960 Wyttenbach received the Josef Pembaur piano prize in Bern; in 1961 he was awarded the Förderungspreis für junge Komponisten of the city of Stuttgart; and in 1962 he received a scholarship from the Biennale de Paris. In 1993 he was awarded the art prize of the city of Basel.