January 2, 1944 -
born in Székelyudvarhely, Hungary, composed during the Contemporary period
Peter Eötvös is one of the more important progressive composers from the latter half of the twentieth century. His works often divulge two features -- a strong theatrical sense, even in many instrumental works, and the movement of sound across the sonic landscape via special positioning of the players and use of electronic amplification. Eötvös' music may well exhibit an avant-garde sound to some listeners, but it is generally more accessible than that of Stockhausen (a mentor), Boulez, Ligeti, and other iconic figures from the post-Webern era.
Eötvös was born in Székelyudvarhely (now Odorheiv Secviesc), Romania, on January 2, 1944. As a child he studied piano, violin, flute percussion, and by age 11 composed a cantata. At 14, he was accepted at the Budapest Academy of Music to study composition, and by 18, though still a student, he was appointed director of the Budapest Comedy Theater. He was soon composing film scores and conducting various second-tier Hungarian orchestras.
From 1966-1968, he studied conducting at Cologne's Hochschule für Musik. In the latter year he met Stockhausen and over the next decade began performing regularly in the Stockhausen Ensemble. From 1971-1979, he worked on integrating electronic elements into music at Cologne's Westdeutscher Rundfunk. Some of his first important large works date to this period: Harakiri (1973), for narrator and instrumentalists, and Il Maestro (1974), for performer and two pianos.
His 1980 conducting debut at the Proms at Royal Albert Hall led to many return visits to London, as well as service as principal guest conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra from 1985-1988. Eötvös followed with other conducting posts in Europe, among them guest conductor of the Budapest Festival Orchestra (1992-1995) and chief conductor of the Hilversum Radio Symphony Orchestra (1994-2005). In 2003 he began serving as guest conductor of both the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra and Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.
Meanwhile, his career in composition advanced with successful orchestral works like Psychokosmos (1993), based on earlier material; Shadows (1996), which uses electronic amplification; and zeroPoints (1999), which was premiered in London in 2000 by the London Symphony Orchestra under Pierre Boulez. In the new century Eötvös has produced several notable operas: Le Balcon (2002) and Angels in America (2002-2004). Eötvös has been active in the recording studio, leading many of his own works, mostly on the Budapest-based label BMC, but also on DG, BIS, and Hungaroton. ~ Robert Cummings, Rovi