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Between 1963 and 1970 York Höller studied composition with Bernd Alois Zimmermann, electronics with Herbert Eimert, piano, and conducting at the Cologne Musikhochschule, and philosophy and musicology at the University of Cologne. He participated in the 1965 Ferienkurse at Darmstadt, and soon became established as one of the most promising German composers of his generation. He was invited by Karlheinz Stockhausen to work at the electronic studio of the WDR (West German Radio) in Cologne from 1971-72, and has subsequently been appointed Director of the studio as a successor to Stockhausen.

The commissioning of Arcus for the Ensemble InterContemporain in 1978 launched Höller's particular association with the French musical world. The technology at IRCAM offered Höller the opportunity to write a score which explored the integration of live and electronically processed sound. The success of Arcus, performed throughout Europe and in the USA, led to a second EIC commission, Resonance, and to a sequence of compositions achieving an impressive synthesis of acoustic and electronic mediums.

The 1980s also saw the composition of a number of purely acoustic pieces, including Piano Concerto No.1, written for Peter Donohoe and the BBC Symphony Orchestra and performed in Paris with Daniel Barenboim as soloist. The orchestral work Magische Klanggestalt has been played extensively throughout Europe, including tours to Scandinavia, Russia and Poland, by the Hamburg Philharmonic under Hans Zender, and the Berlin Philharmonic under Barenboim.

Höller's opera Der Meister und Margarita (1984-89), a setting of Bulgakov's novel, was premiered at the Paris Opera, produced by Hans Neuenfels and conducted by Lothar Zagrosek. The work was subsequently staged by the Cologne Opera, and the composer has extracted a suite for soprano, orchestra and tape, entitled Margaritas Traum. A recording of the Cologne production was released on Col Legno in 2000.

Concertante works by York Höller include Fanal for trumpet and orchestra, premiered by the Ensemble InterContemporain in 1991 and performed and recorded for Largo by the London Sinfonietta, and a second piano concerto Pensées scored for MIDI-piano, orchestra and electronics. His orchestral work Aura, commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, was premiered under Daniel Barenboim in 1995, and was toured by the orchestra to the Cologne Musik Triennale in 1997. In 1999 Höller was commissioned to write the orchestral work Aufbruch, to mark the departure of the German parliament from Bonn to Berlin.

Höller’s orchestral scores of the past decade include Sphären, commissioned by WDR and premiered in Cologne under the baton of Semyon Bychkov in 2008, which won the 2010 Grawemeyer Award. A Cello Concerto for Adrian Brendel was premiered in Hamburg in January 2013, and a new Viola Concerto for Tabea Zimmermann will be performed by the Gürzenich Orchestra in Cologne and the Seoul Philharmonic in 2018.

York Höller's music is published by Boosey & Hawkes.

December 2017

This biography can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with the following credit: Reprinted by kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes.

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