Ekkehard Wölk

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Ekkehard Wölk
Ekkehard Wölk.JPG
Ekkehard Wölk – pianist.
Background information
Born (1967-06-14)14 June 1967
Origin Schleswig, Germany
Genres Jazz, Classic
Occupation(s) Pianist
Instruments Piano

Ekkehard Wölk [Ekkehard Wolk] is a pianist, arranger, and composer from Germany. He is known for his silent film scores for German classics by Murnau and Pabst.

Early life[edit]

He was born in Schleswig, Federal Republic of Germany, 14 June 1967. His mother, Ulrike Geissler (born 1942) was a librarian. His father, Siegfried Wölk (born 1937), was an army officer. Ekkehard's classical music teachers and professors were Kevin McKenna (Dublin, Ireland); Hartmut Leistritz (conservatory of Lubeck); Prof. Eliza Hansen (conservatory of Hamburg); and Gunther Daubler (conservatory of Wurzburg). His jazz improvisation teachers were Walter Norris, Dieter Glawischnig, Richie Beirach, Philip Catherine, John Taylor, Fred Hersch, and Barry Harris. He started piano training at the age of seven in the classical tradition of Leschetitzky and his adepts Artur Schnabel and Edwin Fischer. Eventually he came to put emphasis on the major works of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Debussy. After graduating from high school in 1987 he studied historical and systematic musicology at the University of Hamburg, and later at the Humboldt University in Berlin.

From 1988 to 1994 he studied classical piano at the conservatories in Hamburg and Lubeck. 1994 he graduated as a concert pianist and music pedagogue. Wölk wrote his first jazz compositions at the age of twenty-two.[1]


His influence at first was primarily Bill Evans, later also Bud Powell, McCoy Tyner, Thelonious Monk, Ahmad Jamal, Art Tatum and specifically Fred Hersch who - many years later - became his master teacher in New York City.

Berlin years[edit]

In 1995 Wölk moved to Berlin and worked a lot as a composer and bandleader developing creative projects mostly in the jazz field, as a jazz and classical teacher, as an arranger and as a flexible accompanist for many singers in jazz as well as in classical or musical show genres.

Silent Films[edit]

A couple of his works for German films have been released on DVD by New York-based company Kino. Secrets of a Soul by G. W. Pabst from 1926 with Werner Krauss was released in 2008 and The Finances of the Grand Duke by Murnau that has been released recently (2009), was broadcast by arte channel last winter. Besides many other concert performances as a film live accompanist in Germany, he also took part as a pianist in the international "Berlin-Babylon" silent film festival in the summer of 2010.


He has four commercially released albums as a pianist and arranger in Germany and Italy in the last four years: A Meeting of two American Giants - Gershwin/Bernstein (JB Records, 2001), Desire for Spring (Splasc(H) Records, 2007), A solo album 'Reflections on Mozart' (2006), the trio album ' Songs, Chorals and Dances' (2005) and the 'Homage To Nino Rota' (2008). Besides that, there are several professional live radio recordings by well - known German broadcasting stations in Berlin and Munich with his trio, mostly original compositions under the title: 'Pictures in Sounds!' The latest recording by the Ekkehard Wölk Trio called 'The Berlin Album' released in the 2011, including several of Wölk's original compositions from his Berlin suite as well as freshly rearranged versions of well-known tunes by Mendelssohn, Weill, Eisler and Hollaender.


Among his most notable works as a composer, there are several large-scale suites for chamber music ensemble in the last ten years, combined with powerful segments of instrumental improvisation. The first of these compositions happened to be the epic six - mouvement suite " Across The Border'`" which was written in the summer of 2000 for piano trio ( including some intended echoes of music by COPLAND and other classical North American composers. This piece is an elaborate attempt to catch an imaginary atmosphere and the basic emotional experience of perpetual motion in travelling through a vast, wild and unexplored continent, musically alternating between tightly arranged ensemble parts and vigorously executed jazz - influenced improvisations.

The collection of diverse compositions under the title "Pictures in sounds" (1999–2002)includes a lot of numbers inspired by non- musical motifs from literature and visual arts, sometimes as musical portraits or miniatures and genre- studies, like the pieces 'The Juggler'(1999),`Bartleby’s Blues'(2001), 'Dulcinea' (2001) and 'Master Gepetto`s Nightmare'( 2002).

In January 2004 Ekkehard Wölk spent some time at the Baltic sea in Ahrenshoop where he was invited for a composer`s residency. During that time he worked on the four-part Berlin suite called "People on Sunday" (Babylon Revisited) for septet including violin, alto sax, trombone and clarinet besides the regular piano trio in which he musically depicts the course of life on a Sunday in contemporary Berlin from sunrise to sunset. The suite is structurally inspired by the silent movie by Robert Siodmak and Billy Wilder, Menschen Am Sonntag (1929).

In June 2004 Wölk was invited for another composer`s residency in Toronto, Ontario. While taking part in the Gibraltar Point Artists' Residency, he composed a vast 18-part song cycle called "Book of images" based upon early poems by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926) from his publication The Book of Images. This very expressive song collection stylistically stands in the tradition of late romantic "Lieder" by Mahler, Schönberg, Debussy etc. and it is designed for one classical singing voice (soprano or baritone) and a chamber music ensemble consisting of clarinet, bass clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion. "Book of images" is considered to be Wölk's most refined and haunting large composition until now.

In December 2005 Ekkehard Wölk spent a while in a German catholic monastery near Frankfurt, devoting some of his time there to the composition of the colorful 14- part "Suite Dell Arte", dedicated to the history and the characters of the 17th century Italian Commedia dell'arte, like Arlecchino, Colombina, Pantalone and Dottore. This score makes effective use of the specific sound of instruments like oboe, flute, mandolin and cembalo!

Some extracts from these suites have been frequently performed by the Ekkehard Wölk Trio in the past years and have also been recorded live by Deutschlandradio Kultur, Radio Berlin- Brandenburg and Bayerischer Rundfunk München.[2]

Festival Appearances[edit]

While spending several months in New York City (in the winter of 2001/2002) with a grant from the Culture Department of the Berlin Senate, Wölk did a studio recording in Brooklyn and also played piano solo concerts at the renowned Buckley Recital Hall of Amherst College, Massachusetts which were received very enthusiastically by professors and students.

When he was invited to Toronto in the summer of 2004, he also gave some piano solo performances in and around Toronto.

Later after his return to Germany, he took part in numerous internationally well - known musical festivals, as a soloist or with his piano trio, for example at the Kurt- Weill- festival in Dessau 2005 and 2009, the Mozart birthday's commemoration gala at the Münchner Philharmonie in January 2006, at the Bach festival Leipzig in spring 2006, the Würzburger Bachtage 2007, the European Music Summer Night Kraków July 2007 and the MDR Musiksommer 2008 where he played Bach - and Monteverdi - arrangements with his string quintet in a baroque church in Wechmar/Thüringen, a place which is considered to represent the origin of the widespread Bach - family! His latest festival appearance have been the Mozartfest Würzburg in 2010[2]

His latest festival appearances have been the Mozartfest Würzburg, 2010, and with his trio he has appeared in The International New Delhi Jazz Festival (2011) and at the Glinka Philharmonic Hall Saint Petersburg in the fall of 2012 and 2013 and in the Mariinski Theater in 2015.

Theatre Works[edit]

Besides his many original and ambitious projects as a composer/arranger and ensemble leader, Ekkehard Wölk also occasionally works as a pianist and arranger in diverse theatre productions in Germany and Switzerland, including engagements at the Schillertheater Berlin, the Berliner Ensemble and the Schauspielhaus Zürich. In connection with these activities, he worked together with some prominent personalities from the internat ional theatre and stage music scene, like Jerome Savary, Franz Wittenbrink, George Tabori and Stanley Walden.[2]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Online Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
  2. ^ a b c interview with Ekkehard Wölk