“Despite my age, I am always searching for something new. The path on which I search leads me unavoidably back to me. Thus, it is also always about finding new sides of myself. The intense experience of music is a way into one’s own being – for the listener too.”
Composer Friedrich Cerha, born in Vienna in 1926, has long been considered one of the most important Austrian composers of our time. In 1958, he founded the Vienna-based ensemble die reihe, which he directed for decades. In 1960 and 1961, Cerha composed a work that became central to his compositional output - a cycle entitled Spiegel. In 1979, he completed Berg’s three-act opera Lulu, a work for which he gained international attention.
Friedrich Cerha has spent much of his career delving into various 20th century musical styles, such as twelve-tone technique, neoclassicism, and serial music. He has also maintained an interest in replicable emotional developments, which permeate both his orchestral and chamber works.
Music-theatre has also played an important role in Cerha’s compositional output. For example, he created a version of Spiegel that included movement groups, lights, and objects. Soon after this he wrote the music-theatre piece Netzwerk. In the late 1970s, Cerha became highly interested in Bertolt Brecht’s Baal and produced a work of the same name that grappled with the relationship between the individual and society. This work was followed by Der Rattenfänger (1984-1986) and Der Riese vom Steinfeld (1997). His most important orchestral works include Langegger Nachtmusik III and Impulse.
The past decade has seen his extraordinary, seemingly never-ending creativity continue to flourish. Since Momente, premiered by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under Arturo Tamayo in 2005, over ten works for large orchestra have been written for ensembles such as Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, WDR Symphony Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden and Freiburg and the ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra Vienna. This is in addition to nearly 50 solo and ensemble works and an opera, Onkel Präsident, premiered in Munich at the Gärtnerplatz Theater in 2013.
The composer’s 90th birthday was celebrated with performance by the Scharoun Ensemble, Klangforum Wien and oenm among others. The Wigmore Hall dedicated a Composer Focus Day to the composer at the beginning of the 2015/16 season and later in the season the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra congratulated the composer with two premieres under their chief conductor Cornelius Meister: Drei Sätze for orchestra in April in the Vienna Musikverein and Eine blassblaue Vision at the Salzburg Festival in August.
In the 2017/18 season, Drei Sätze für Orchester receives its German premiere in Osnabrück, and the orchestral work Nacht will be given its Japanese premiere by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra under Ilan Volkov.
In addition to his active compositional life, Friedrich Cerha taught at the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna until 1988. His students included Georg Friedrich Haas and Karlheinz Essl. Friedrich Cerha is a recipient of the Grand Austrian State Prize, a member of the European Academy of Arts and Sciences, and an officer of the Order of Arts and Letters. The Venice Biennale awarded Cerha with the Golden Lion for his life’s work in 2006. Friedrich Cerha was honoured with the 2012 Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, known as the “Nobel Prize of Music”.
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