On the Trail of His Life and Oeuvres



Magazin-Cover Gion Antoni Derungs, Leben, Mensch, Komponist  
All that matters is the result sounding
Wichtig ist allein das klingende Resultat
Impurtont ei sulettamein co ei tuna

Magazine in honor of Gion Antoni Derungs with German and Roman texts.
Learn more about the work and gain insight to the essence Gion Antoni Derungs.

Excerpt DE/RM
Order DE/RM


Gion Antoni Derungs-Dicht, 1935-2012 

Text by Arnold Spescha, Romanist


Visualization of content. The branches of a strong tree in Vella, radiant blue sky in the background.  

The Apple does not Fall far from the Tree

Gion Antoni Derungs was born on September 6, 1935 in Vella. His father Wolfgang, secondary school teacher and organist, died when Gion Antoni was just two years old. His mother Heinrica, a sister of the composer Duri Sialm, was left behind with him and his sister Maria Margrita. Gion Antoni went to the gymnasium in Disentis and studied music in Zurich. He was a musician in Lichtensteig in Toggenburg from 1960-62, where he met his wife Susi Dicht. They then moved to Chur, where he taught at the teachers college from 1962-1999.

Visualisierung des Inhalts. Gion Antoni Derungs applaudiert stolz seinem Ensemble nach einer Aufführung.  

A Versatile Musician

Gion Antoni Derungs was a teacher, pianist and organist, conductor and composer – with engagement, perfection and joy. With the fire of enthusiasm he was able to excite, this man in his delicate way, this profound and wise being, humorous and big-hearted. He was a master at the organ, which he played for 40 years in the cathedral of Chur and in other churches. He conducted the Romansh choirs from Chur “Rezia” and “Alpina” and found and led for many years the “Quartet Grischun”, which devoted itself mainly to contemporary music. Nevertheless, his big passion was composing.



«With the fire of enthusiasm he was able to excite,
this man in his delicate way,
this profound and wise being, humorous and big-hearted.»
Arnold Spescha




Visualisierung des Inhaltes. Gion Antoni Derungs spielt, komponiert bei sich Zuhause. Seine Hände werden im Fokus gezeigt. Das Bild ist ein Scann einer alten Aufnahme in Schwarz-Weiss.  

A Composer by Vocation

It is possible that the early death of his father caused him to create so many pieces, of which numerous dealt with topic of death. Maybe this is why he worked ceaselessly, with an iron will, independently and with an impressive aesthetic consistency. He was not looking for fast success. Even though he had role models, he searched and found his own style, his own musical language. He went on the path of someone who put individuality and quality in the center. His oeuvre contains over 400 composition and almost all musical genres, from the folksong and the Lied to the symphony and the opera.

Visualisierung des Inhaltes. Das Zifferblatt der Kirchenuhr ist mit seinen goldenen römischen Zahlen und Uhrzeigern gut erkennbar.  

The Romansh Folksong and the Church Song

The Romansh folksong greatly inspired and influenced Gion Antoni Derungs, both the secular and religious kind. He received first impulses from the richly cultural and religious life in Vella (Lumnezia Valley). He orchestrated folksongs, adapted melodies, motives and topics and with this valuable material created new works.
Church songs inspired some of his best compositions, from the Gregorian chant and from the ecclesiastical songs of the church and hymnbook “Consolidation of the devout soul”. This is another example of his roots. It led to versatile and qualitative high standing oeuvres, which carried his name across Grison and over Switzerland, and wherefore he received great honors.

Visualisierung des Inhaltes.  

Operas and Symphonies

Gion Antoni Derungs had the ability and endurances to create oeuvres of great dimension. He created the first Romansh opera, “Il cerchel magic”. More followed, three of which were part of the cultural festival “Origen” by Giovanni Netzer. Gion Antoni Derungs preferred the dramatic, the combination of words, music and enactment. His six operas are also of great significance for the identity of the Rhaetians. Thus important is his oeuvre “Henry Dunant – ein dramatisches Menschenleben”, with the lyrics by former federal counselor Hans-Rudolf Merz. The conductor Mario Scharz, who interpreted many of Derungs’ compositions, performed this melodrama in Heiden (Switzerland), Geneva, Sarajevo and Moscow.

Visualisierung des Inhalts. Eine Gruppe bunt gekleideter Sängerinnen und Sänger stehen mitten im Lichtkegel auf einer Bühne der Aufführung Il Semiader.  

Music with Atmosphere, Esprit and Plasticity

What fascinates me the most is the atmosphere his compositions radiate. So for example the music of the opera ballet “Sontga Margriata” which has a sentimental and sensual character. Its music creates atmosphere and conjures that special magic of the saga. Derungs orchestrated with the paintbrush of an artist. He is a master of orchestration.

His music also contains a lot of esprit, explains the conductor Simon Camartin, who performed many of Derungs’ compositions within the frame of the music festival “Menhir” and in many other concerts worldwide.
The biggest compositions, especially the symphonies, are of exceptional plasticity. Parts with a lyric-filigree character alternate with more powerful passages. Gion Antoni Derungs was a master of timbre, pictures, of adapting motives and topics, of interweaving, condensing and reinforcing. He put all of his being, his feelings and thinking into his ten symphonies.


«Everybody has to say farewell at one point.
And we are all aware of it.
A constricting feeling sometimes captures me,
yes almost a deep fear of this crossover, this departure.»
Gion Antoni Derungs




Visualisierung des Inhalts. Eine Nahaufnahme eines verzierten Schmiedeisen-Zauns des Friedhofes in Vella. Weit entfernt sieht man verschwommen, die weiss verschneiden Berge an einem sonnigen Tag.  

His Musical Testament

The symphony No. 8 carries the title “Being - Decaying” and was premièred for his 75th birthday in 2010 under the direction of Simon Camartin at the Martinskirche in Chur. The composer described the first part as “angusto” and writes: “Everybody has to say farewell at one point. And we are all aware of it. A constricting feeling sometimes captures me, yes almost a deep fear of this crossover, this departure.” In the second part, “mistico”, with motives from the “Canzun da Sontga Margriata”, the composer describes the secretive and mystical powers that are part of every being. In the third part, “festive”, he weaves in motives of the Te Deum, “Tei nies ver Diu”, and creates a majestic grandioso. In his words: “It is a grand ritual, a praise of God and an acknowledgment and praise that I am also part of the circle of “Sein und Vergehen”.