Richard Carl Zimmermann


Date of birth
Circa 1860
Date of death
Place Of birth
Born in Austria approximately 1860, Richard Carl Zimmermann arrived in New Zealand in 1879. A noted violinist, composer and conductor, Zimmermann studied with Joseph Helmesburger (1828 -1893) at the Vienna Conservatory. There are variations in the spelling and documentation of his name in local directories and newspapers including "Herr Von Zimmermann" or "Professor Zimmermann" and also RC Zimmermann (and "Zimmerman" with a single n).

Zimmermann arrived in Nelson in January 1890 documented as "A Member of the Conservatorium Leipsic [Leipzig] and Vienna" with a studio in the Brown's building on Hardy St for teaching students. Zimmermann became part of the music scene in Nelson Tasman being "Music Master" of Nelson College, and playing concerts and conducting the Nelson Harmonic Society. Zimmermann left Nelson in September 1892 and stayed briefly in Dunedin. He married Sarah Waterhouse (nee Halstead) in Auckland in 1896 who gave birth to their son Carl Zimmermann in Dunedin in 1898.

In 1900 Zimmermann was back in Auckland but returned to the South Island in 1903 living in Christchurch. There, Zimmermann was extremely active in the various music societies and was also a foundational member and leader of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. He was also a notable musician in the early cinema orchestras. See Philip Jane PhD thesis "An Historical Survey of the Establishment of an Orchestral Tradition in Christchurch to 1939"

In 1915, Zimmermann was using the name Richard Charles Vernon and was convicted of contravening Section 8 of the War Regulation Act 1914 that "enemy aliens" (even those naturalised as British subjects) could not change their name (except by marriage). Just a year prior, Zimmermann was interviewed by the Lyttelton Times documenting the threats he had received due to his Germanic heritage despite him strongly identifying with his British subjecthood. The court imposed a lesser penalty due to Zimmermann having received legal advice that as a British Subject that he could change his name.

Zimmermann passed away in 1952.


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