Die Ursonate

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On the Ursonate by Kurt Schwitters
A complete authentic recording is still unknown.

Since 1993, a CD containing the complete Ursonate has been distributed as an “Original Performance by Kurt Schwitters” (WERGO, Mainz, WER 6304-2). The authenticity of the recording has been doubted since its release by artists, scholars, and critics due to the manner of the interpretation and the pitch of the speaker’s voice.

Supposedly, as the publisher quotes the artist’s son, Ernst Schwitters, in the accompanying booklet, it is “—probably the only—original recording spoken by my father himself and just as I have always known it…” (May 1992). Jack Ox “discovered” the recording in the possession Michael Waisvisz, who in turn is supposed to have attained it from the archive of WDR [West German Radio]. The provenance, however, still remains open and the sources on Kurt Schwitters provide no indication as to whether the artist in fact ever succeeded in producing a complete recording. On the contrary, much indicates the futility of his attempts.

In order to clarify these doubts, the Kurt and Ernst Schwitters Foundation commissioned an expertise in 2006 from Prof. Dr. Jens-Peter Köster, University of Trier, based on an analysis of the voice. For the expertise, three recordings were compared to each other: the original Kurt Schwitters recording from 1932 (source: Kurt Schwitters Ursonate, recording from 5 May 1932 at the SDR [South German Radio], 78 rpm shellac recording in the estate of the Kurt and Ernst Schwitters Foundation), Ernst Schwitters’s 1958 recording of “Sonate in Urlauten” (source: Kurt Schwitters, Ernst Schwitters and Philip Granville, An Anna Blume.

Die Sonate in Urlauten, Lord’s Gallery, London, October 1958; 100 copies, 33 1/3 rpm long-playing record) and the above-mention Wergo CD. The analysis confirmed the suspicion and proves that the CD distributed as a recording by Kurt Schwitters is in fact a performance made by his son Ernst Schwitters.

Schott Musikverlag, which has been aware of this fact since 2007, continues to hold to its earlier statements made in the CD booklet. (See the article concerning this matter “Wer spricht die Ursonate?” in Der Spiegel, 8/2008, p. 147) The foundation requests all those interested in Schwitters to take this information into consideration. All of Kurt Schwitters’s original interpretations in addition to numerous later recordings of the Ursonate have been available as mp3 files since 2008 on the “Kurt Schwitters. Urwerk” issued by Zweitausendeins (out of stock).

© Kurt und Ernst Schwitters Stiftung

Kurt und Ernst Schwitters Stiftung