Péter Eötvös

Péter Eötvös
The composer in 2018
Born (1944-01-02) 2 January 1944 (age 80)
  • Composer
  • Conductor
  • Teacher

Péter Eötvös (Hungarian: Eötvös Péter, Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈøtvøʃ ˈpeːtɛr]; born 2 January 1944) is a Hungarian composer, conductor and teacher.

Eötvös was born in Székelyudvarhely, Transylvania, then part of Hungary, now Romania. He studied composition in Budapest and Cologne. From 1962, he composed for film in Hungary. Eötvös played regularly with the Stockhausen Ensemble between 1968 and 1976. He was a founding member of the Oeldorf Group in 1973, continuing his association until the late 1970s. From 1979 to 1991, he was musical director and conductor of the Ensemble InterContemporain (EIC). From 1985 to 1988, he was principal guest conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Early life

As a child, Eötvös received a thorough musical education, including works by Béla Bartók. He felt a strong link between Hungarian grammar and Bartók's music, claiming that the specific "Hungarian" interpretations of music by Bartók and Kodály (as well as other Hungarian conductors such as Szell, Fricsay, Ormandy, Solti, Reiner) show subtle accents and rhythms of the Hungarian language.

His mother, a pianist, participated in the musical and intellectual life of Budapest and took her son to many performances and rehearsals of opera, operetta and theatre. He learned the piano, and also wrote plays and small pieces. He won a composition contest at age eleven and was then noticed in the Hungarian artistic world. He then met Ligeti, 21 years his senior, who recommended him to Kodály at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music. He was accepted with honours at the Academy, where he studied composition with János Viski, on Kodály's advice.

In 1958, he was asked to accompany film projections with improvisations on piano and hammond organ. He was then asked to write scores for theatre and cinema. By 1970, he had composed several pieces of utility music. He learned the importance of timing and synchronisation. He also discovered noise as a sound, which was the starting point of some later compositions. The work Zero Points begins with a countdown, as if destined to synchronise sound and image, the double bass then takes on a high-pitched sound reminding the cracks of an old magnetic tape.

During a period of ten years he developed personal musical preferences, for Gesualdo (the idea of the madrigal returns in pieces such as Drei Madrigalkomödien and Tri sestry (Three Sisters)), American jazz of the 1960s, electronic music (of which Karlheinz Stockhausen's figure was inseparable), and Pierre Boulez, among others. He quickly distanced himself from other composers of the Academy.

Later career

In 1970, Eötvös requested a scholarship to go study abroad, leaving for Cologne (DE), following the examples of Kurtág and Ligeti. The Hochschule für Musik Köln and the studio of the broadcaster Westdeutscher Rundfunk worked together at that time, which allowed students to use advanced technology in one of the best studios in Europe. Eötvös worked there from 1971 to 1979 He studied composition with Bernd Alois Zimmermann, as well as conducting. He met Stockhausen, already being familiar with his work. Eötvös became Stockhausen's engineer and copyist (the score of Telemusik is copied by him), and his musician and conductor, amongst other things conducting the La Scala premiere of Donnerstag aus Licht in 1981, as well as its Covent Garden performances in 1985.

Eötvös conducting in 2006

In 1978, Boulez asked him to conduct the opening concert of IRCAM in Paris (FR). He was then appointed musical director of the Ensemble InterContemporain, holding the position until 1991. He performed at the Proms in 1980, and was regularly invited by the BBC Orchestra between 1985 and 1988. This period also marks his first success as a composer with his Chinese Opera (1986), written for the 10-year anniversary of the Ensemble InterContemporain. The piece constitutes a reflexion on the theatricality of sound, as the composer spreads the musicians through the stage, a process also found in Three Sisters. Each movement is a tribute to directors he admired: Bob Wilson, Klaus Michael Grüber, Luc Bondy, Patrice Chéreau, Jacques Tati and Peter Brook.

Jean-Pierre Brossman, director of the Opéra National de Lyon (FR) at that time, admired his ability to take into consideration the work of artists and directors, and commissioned an opera in 1986: Three Sisters, based on Chekhov's play. In 2008, he premiered two other operas, Lady Sarashina and Love and Other Demons.

Eötvös was principal guest conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (SE) from 2003 to 2007. His recording of Luciano Berio's Sinfonia with the London Voices (DG) received the award for "Technical excellence in recording" by the BBC Music Magazine in 2006. He served as a member of the jury of the Tōru Takemitsu composition competition in 2014.

Composition style

Eötvös's music shows the influence of a variety of composers. As director of the Ensemble InterContemporain, he was exposed to styles, as is evidenced in the variety of timbres and soundworlds within his music. Extended techniques such as over-pressure bowings coexist with lyrical folk songs and synthesized sounds. Eötvös provides detailed instructions on how to mix instruments for electronic manipulation or amplification. His first large-scale compositions were for film. This often reflects on his later pieces in moments of atmospheric airiness. Two of his compositions for orchestra and voice, Atlantis and Ima, were inspired by Sándor Weöres' poem Néma zene.

Most of his works are published by Schott Music in Mainz (DE) and distributed by Presto Music and Outhere Music.




Stage works

Orchestra works

  • Alhambra (Violin Concerto No. 3), violin and orchestra (2018)
  • Per Luciano Berio (2018)
  • Reading Malevich (2017–18)
  • Multiversum, for organ, Hammond organ and orchestra (2017)
  • Alla vittime senza nome (2017)
  • Dialog mit Mozart (2016)
  • Halleluja – Oratorium balbulum, four fragments for mezzo-soprano and tenor solo, narrator, choir and orchestra (2015)
  • Hommage à Domenico Scarlatti, for horn soloist and string chamber orchestra (2013)
  • Speaking drums, percussion concerto (2012/13)
  • DoReMi (Violin Concerto No. 2), violin and orchestra (2012)
  • The gliding of the eagle in the skies (2011)
  • Cello Concerto Grosso, for cello and orchestra (2010–11)
  • Levitation, for two clarinets and string orchestra (2007)
  • Konzert für zwei Klaviere (2007)
  • Seven (Violin Concerto No. 1), violin and orchestra (2006)
  • CAP-KO, concerto for piano, keyboard and orchestra (2005)
  • Jet Stream, trumpet concerto (2002)
  • IMA, for soloists, choir and orchestra (2002)
  • zeroPoints (1999)
  • Two monologues, for baritone and orchestra (1998)
  • Replica, viola concerto (1998) – recorded by Kim Kashkashian on ECM Records
  • Atlantis, for solo baritone, boy soprano, zymbalom, virtual choir and orchestra (1995)
  • Psychokosmos, zymbalon concerto (1993)
  • Chinese Opera (1986)

Ensemble works

  • Secret kiss, melodrama for narrator and 5 instruments (2018)
  • da capo (Mit Fragmenten aus W. A. Mozarts Fragmenten), for cimbalon or marimba and ensemble (2014)
  • Dodici, for 12 cellos (2013)
  • Octet (2008), for flute, clarinet, 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones
  • Sonata per sei, for two pianos, three percussion and one sampler keyboard (2006)
  • Snatches of a conversation, for double-bell trumpet solo and ensemble (2001)
  • Paris–Dakar, for trombone solo, brass and percussion (2000)
  • Shadows, for flute, clarinet and ensemble (1996)
  • Psy, first version for harp, alto flute/piccolo and viola; second for harp, alto flute/piccolo and violoncello (1996)
  • Triangel, percussionist and ensemble (1993)
  • Brass – The Metal Space, actions for 7 brass players and 2 percussionists without conductor (1990)
  • Steine, for ensemble (1985–90)
  • Windsequenzen, for ensemble (1975/1987)
  • Intervalles-Interieurs, ensemble and electronics (1981)
  • Windsequenzen (1975/1987)

Vocal music

  • Goretsch! Goretsch!, for mezzo-soprano solo (2017)
  • Die lange Reise, for soprano and piano (2014)
  • Herbsttag, for female choir (2011)
  • Schiller, energische Schönheit, for 8 singers, 8 wind instruments, 2 percussion and accordion (2010)
  • Octet Plus, for soprano, flute, clarinet, 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones (2008)
  • Solitude / Egyedül, for children or women's choir, in memoriam Kodály (1956/2006)
  • Drei Madrigalkomödien, for 12 voices:
  • "Insetti galanti" (1970–90)
  • "Hochzeitsmadrigal" (1963–76)
  • "Moro Lasso" (1963–72)

Chamber music and solo works

  • Lisztomania, for piano four hands (2018)
  • désaccord 2, for 2 violas, in memoriam B.A. Zimmermann (2018)
  • Joyce, for clarinet solo (2018)
  • Joyce, for clarinet and string quartet (2017)
  • Sentimental, for trumpet in E-flat doubling flugelhorn (2017)
  • "Now, Miss!", for violin and cello, based on Samuel Beckett's "Embers" (2016)
  • The sirens cycle, soprano and string quartet (2015/16)
  • Molto Tranquillo, trio for piccolo doubling alto-flute, cello and piano (2015)
  • para Paloma, violin solo (2015)
  • O rose!, piano solo (2015)
  • a Call, violin solo (2015)
  • Lectures différentes, saxophone quartet (2014)
  • New Psalm, percussion solo (2012/13)
  • Dances of the Brush-footed Butterfly, piano solo (2012)
  • Cadenza, flute solo (2008)
  • Natasha, soprano, violin, clarinet and piano (2006)
  • Erdenklavier-Himmelklavier nr. 2., piano solo (2003/2006)
  • Encore, string quartet (2005)
  • Un taxi l´attend, mais Tchékhov préfère aller à pied., piano solo (2004)
  • Erdenklavier-Himmelklavier nr. 1., piano solo (2003)
  • Zwei Promenaden, percussion, keyboard and tuba (1993/2001)
  • Derwischtanz, for 1 or 3 clarinets (1993/2001)
  • Kosmos, solo or two pianos (1961/99)
  • Two poems to Polly, solo cello (1998)
  • Psalm 151, for percussion (1993)
  • Thunder, solo timpani (1993)
  • Korrespondenz, for string quartet (1992)
  • 5 Klavierstücke, piano solo (1959/60/61)

Electronic music

  • Psy, tape (1996)
  • Elektrochronik, tape (1974)
  • "Now, Miss!" violin, synthesizer with tape (1972)
  • Music for New York (1971)
  • Cricketmusic, tape (1970)
  • Mese (Märchen /Tale/Conte), tape (1968)

Theater and film music

  • Sándor Sára: Könyörtelen idök – Relentless Times (1991)
  • Judit Elek: Tutajosok Raftsmen (1990)
  • Sándor Sára: Tüske a köröm alatt – Thorn under the Nail (1987)
  • Károly Makk: Macskajáték – Cat´s play (1974)
  • Mihály Szemes: Az alvilág professzora – The professor of inferno (1969)
  • Ferenc Kardos: Egy örült éjszaka – A Crazy Night (1969)
  • János Tóth: Aréna – Arena (1969)
  • Zoltán Huszárik: Amerigo Tot (1969)
  • Shakespeare: Téli rege – The Winter´s Tale (1969)
  • Shakespeare: Athéni Timon – Timon of Athens (1969)
  • Katona: Bánk bán (1968)
  • Foltos és Fülenagy – Spotty and Bigears (1966)
  • János Szücs: Szomjuság – Thirst (1965)
  • Gábor Oláh: Három kivánság (1965)
  • Hét szem mazsola – Seven Raisins (1965)
  • Ellopott bejárat – Stolen Entrance (1965)
  • Anouilh: Becket (1965)
  • Madách: Az ember tragédiája – Tragedy of Man (1964)
  • Lermontov: Hóvihar – The Storm (1964)
  • Pirandello: Hat szerep keres egy szerzöt – Six characters in search of an author (1964)
  • István Szabó: (1964)
  • Iván Lakatos: Mozaik – Mosaic (1964)
  • Twist Oliver – Oliver Twist (1963)
  • Tennessee Williams: Üvegfigurák- The Glass Menagerie (1963)
  • O'Neill: Amerikai Elektra – Mourning becomes Electra (1963)
  • Pál Gábor: Aranykor – Golden Age (1963)
  • Zoltán Fábri: Nappali sötétség – Darkness at noon (1963)
  • István Bácskay-Lauro: Igézet – Spell (1963)
  • János Rózsa: Tér – Space (1962)
  • Pál Gábor: Prometeusz – Prometheus (1962)
  • Pál Gábor: A megérkezés – The Arrival (1962)
  • Károly Esztergályos: Ötödik pozicióban – In fifth position (1962)
  • Büchner: Leonce és Léna – Leonce and Lena (1961)
  • Sean O'Casey: Az ezüst kupa – The Silver Tassie (1961)

Portrait-film and documentary film

  • The seventh door
  • En souvenir de Trois Soeurs
  • Talentum
  • Trois Soeurs – opera film
  • Le Balcon – opera film
  • Angels in America – opera film

Withdrawn compositions

  • désaccord – pour deux altos (2001)
  • 600 Impulse (2000)
  • Der Blick, tape (1997)
  • Endless Eight II. for ensemble – Apeiron musikon (1988–89)
  • Pierre Idyll (1984)
  • Endless Eight I. for ensemble (1981)

As conductor

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