Born on April 27, 1941 in Chemnitz, Goldmann’s music education began in 1951 when he joined the Dresden Kreuzchor. At age 18, he was awarded a scholarship by the City of Darmstadt and went to study with Karlheinz Stockhausen (Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, 1959), who further encouraged him over the following years. Subsequently, Stockhausen invited Goldmann to the Darmstadt courses of 1961 and 1962, but he wasn’t allowed to travel after the installation of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Officially, he studied composition at the Dresden Conservatory from 1959, taking his exam two years early in 1962. From 1962 to 1964 he attended master class at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin with Rudolph Wagner-Régeny. Simultaneously he began working as a freelance music assistant at the Berliner Ensemble theatre where he met composers, writers and directors such as Heiner Müller, Luigi Nono, BK Tragelehn, Paul Dessau and Ruth Berghaus with whom he would work throughout the next decades. From 1964 to 1968 he also studied musicology at Humboldt University of Berlin.
His oeuvre includes numerous chamber works, four symphonies, four solo concertos (for piano, oboe, trombone and violin) and orchestral works as well as the opera “R.Hot bzw. Die Hitze.” Due to aesthetic restrictions imposed by East German cultural politics, his publicly performed works were initially almost entirely limited to theatre music. Since the late 1960s with a shift in politics the suppression of New Music was gradually lessened by the state apparatus, which allowed a new generation of composers to be performed by newly founded chamber ensembles (such as Gruppe Neue Musik “Hanns Eisler” and Bläservereinigung Berlin) as well as by well established orchestras (for instance Staatskapelle Berlin or Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig).
The most frequent commissioners throughout his oeuvre were Wittener Tage Festival, Ensemble Modern, Konzerthaus, Musikbiennale Berlin, Berliner Festwochen and Staatsoper / Staatskapelle Berlin. Major commissions also include Berliner Philharmoniker, Musica Viva, Arditti Quartet, Scharoun Ensemble, Komische Oper Berlin, Deutschlandradio, Gewandhaus Leipzig, Semperoper, Ny Musikks Ensemble and Staatskapelle Dresden, the 20th anniversary celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Expo 2000 in Hannover, the 425th anniversary of the Saxonian State Library in Dresden, and Pélerinages Festival in Weimar.
As a conductor, he worked with many orchestras and ensembles – including Berliner Philharmoniker, Staatskapelle Berlin, SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg, Gruppe Neue Musik “Hanns Eisler” and Scharoun Ensemble – and performed in most European countries, Russia, USA, Japan and South Korea. He conducted first performances by Helmut Lachenmann, Toshio Hosokawa, Hans Werner Henze among many other contemporary composers.
From 1980 until 1991 he taught master classes at Berlin’s Akademie der Künste. In 1991 he became professor of composition at Universität der Künste in Berlin where he headed the Institute for New Music from 2003 until retiring in 2005. Among his students were Enno Poppe, Helmut Oehring, Arnulf Herrmann, Sergej Newski, Steffen Schleiermacher, Jakob Ullmann, Nicolaus Richter de Vroe, Johannes Wallmann, Charlotte Seither and Paul Frick.
Friedrich Goldmann died in Berlin on July 24th, 2009, at age 68.
Friedrich Goldmann’s oeuvre can be differentiated roughly by three creative periods. The publicly performed oeuvre starts around 1963 and develops until the beginning of the 1970s in several stage musics as well as chamber music and three “Essays” for orchestra. For these early works he initially employed serialist and cluster techniques, which he soon abandoned. Later he rated these early efforts as “to be thrown away.” Around 1969 Goldmann entered a first important phase in which he developed a technique of composing with individually addressed heterogenous layers, especially appropriating traditional forms (such as sonata, symphony etc.) and “breaking them open from within” with new content, thereby transforming their impact and meaning. This allowed for highlighting the breaking points between contradictory layers as an aesthetic parameter in its own right. This approach went beyond previous collage techniques and predated later debates regarding the incorporation of historic musical material and “multiple coding.” Important works of this phase are Sonate für Bläserquintett und Klavier (1969) and Symphony 1 (1972-1973).
Since the mid 1970s a new tendency evolved that would dominate his third creative period, fully developed since the 1990s: autonomous, “absolute” composition that takes a holistic approach to the full range of formal possibilities within New Music. Instead of working with discrepancies, as in his previous period, Goldmann shifted towards exploring perceptual continuums and amalgamations of material and techniques – for instance transitions between noise and tone or chromatic material and microtonality. This approach aims at overcoming assumed antagonisms between different “layers of material.” Within the resulting consistent shapes, assumed parameter boundaries dissolve – challenging the conventional concept of musical material as a set of stable and discrete entities. Works incorporating such structures can be identified as early as 1969 (i.e. the 2nd movement of Bläsersonate). Important examples are Trio (4 Stücke) for Viola, Violoncello and Double Bass (1986), String Quartet 2 (1997) and quasi una sinfonia (2008).