For me, composition consists of the enchantment of the audience through sound... I am interested in the technique which allows me to transform the unbelievable into sounds. This is exactly what is required in opera. (Peter Eötvös)
Peter Eötvös was born on 2 January 1944 in Székelyudvarhely (Transylvania). At the age of 14, Zoltán Kodály admitted him to his composition class at the Music Academy in Budapest. In 1966, a scholarship permitted him to relocate to the Federal Republic of Germany where he sought contact with the musical avant-garde in Cologne. He subsequently performed in concerts with the Stockhausen Ensemble (1968-1976) and was employed as sound engineer in the West German Radio electronic studio in Cologne. At the invitation of Pierre Boulez, Eötvös conducted the opening concert of the IRCAM in Paris 1978 and was subsequently appointed as musical director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain. He gave his debut at the London PROMS in 1980 and conducted the first performance of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s opera “Donnerstag aus Licht” the following year at the Scala in Milan. Eötvös was appointed as principal guest conductor of a number of international orchestras: the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Budapest Festival Orchestra, the SWR Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart and, since 2009, also the Radio Symphony Orchestra in Vienna. With the foundation of the International Peter Eötvös Institute for Young Conductors and Composers, Eötvös created a platform for the transfer of acquired knowledge and experience to the next generation. He taught at the Musikhochschule in Karlsruhe from 1992, took up an appointment as professor at the Musikhochschule in Cologne and subsequently returned to Karlsruhe in 2002 for a further five years.
Eötvös views music as an intensive form of communication between composer, performer and the audience. His ability of creating unusual tonal worlds is particularly displayed in his orchestral works, for example in zeroPoints, composed in 1999 in homage to Pierre Boulez. The title of the work is a reference to the historical “zero hour” in electronic music, although the integrated sound effects are in fact produced exclusively on orchestral instruments. The works Jet Stream for trumpet and orchestra (2002) and Seven for solo violin and orchestra (2006/2007) both feature a solo instrument as the focus of action. The composition CAPKO (2005) which is dedicated to Béla Bartók develops a totally new form of piano concerto. The work exists in three different versions: a concerto with orchestra for one solo pianist who alternates between an acoustic grand piano and electronic keyboard, as a double concerto for two acoustic solo pianos with orchestral accompaniment and as an ensemble work for two pianos, sampler and percussion (Sonata per Sei).
Eötvös can be counted among the most successful operatic composers of our time. The libretto of the chamber opera Radames (1975/1997) originated from a textual concept by the composer, whereas later opera projects are based on master works of world literature. In 2002, Le Balcon, based on the play by Jean Genet was premiered at the Festival in Aix-en-Provence. Angels in America (2004) is based on the cult play by Tony Kushner which has been regarded as a key text in American literature since the 1990s. The opera Love and Other Demons, originating from a novel by the Nobel prize winner Gabriel García Márquez, transports us into the world of Columbia in the 18th century with its superstition, desire and religious obsession and was premiered to great acclaim at the 2008 Glyndebourne Festival. In 2010, Die Tragödie des Teufels was premiered at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich.
Eötvös has received numerous international honours and awards including the Hungarian Bartók Prize (1997), the Christoph and Stephan Kaske Prize (2000), the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award (2002) and the prize SACD Palmarès in the category "Prix Musique" (2002). Eötvös has been a member of the Academy of Arts in Berlin, the Szechenyi Academy of Arts in Budapest and the Saxon Academy of Arts in Dresden since 2000. He was also awarded the title of Commandeur de l`Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2003) and 2004 the Cannes Classical Award in the category "Best Living Composer" at the MIDEM. He received the Frankfurt Music Prize in 2007 and the Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale in 2011.