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Born on 27 April 1941 in Siegmar-Schönau, Chemnitz, Goldmann’s music education began in 1951 when he joined the Dresdner Kreuzchor. At age 18, he received a scholarship by the city of Darmstadt to study composition with Karlheinz Stockhausen at the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in 1959, who further encouraged him over the following years (Müller 2001). He moved on to study with Johannes Paul Thilman at the Dresden Conservatory from 1959, taking his exam two years early in 1962. From 1962 until 1964 he attended a master class at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin with Rudolph Wagner-Régeny. Around this time, he worked as a freelance music assistant at the Berliner Ensemble where he befriended other composers and writers, including Heiner Müller, Luigi Nono and Luca Lombardi. He also met Paul Dessau, who became a close friend and mentor. From 1964 until 1968, he studied musicology at Humboldt University of Berlin, after which he worked as a freelance composer and conductor.
Major commissions include works for the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Semperoper Dresden, the Berlin Staatsoper, three works for Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik, Ensemble Modern, Arditti Quartet, Komische Oper Berlin, the 20th anniversary celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Expo 2000 in Hannover, several works for Konzerthaus Berlin and the German radio orchestras.
As a conductor, he worked with several orchestras and ensembles, including Berliner Philharmoniker - (CD: Stockhausen, Gruppen, Deutsche Grammophon), Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Staatskapelle Berlin [incl. Schönberg's Moses und Aron, directed by Ruth Berghaus, 1987], Gruppe Neue Musik Hanns Eisler and Scharoun Ensemble, and performed all over Europe, Russia, USA, Japan and South Korea. He had a close working relationship with Ensemble Modern from the first days of the ensemble’s formation. Their collaborations included a tour of Russia, the French and West German premieres of Luigi Nono’s Prometeo, as well as performances and recordings of Goldmann’s own works.
From 1988 he was the principal conductor of the Boris Blacher Ensemble in Berlin. Recordings of his and other composers’ music have been released by Nova, Wergo, Deutsche Grammophon, Academy, Edel Classics, RCA, BMG and other labels. Other conductors who have performed his works include Pierre Boulez, Daniel Barenboim, Michael Gielen, Mark Elder, Ernest Bour and Ingo Metzmacher.
From 1980 until 1991, he taught master classes at Berlin’s Akademie der Künste. In 1991 he became a professor of composition at the Hochschule der Künste, Berlin (now Universität der Künste) (Müller 2001). There, he headed the Institute for New Music from 2003 until 2005. He also held master classes in Seoul, South Korea, and Tokyo, Japan.
Among his students were Enno Poppe, Helmut Oehring, Nicolaus Richter de Vroe, Steffen Schleiermacher, Chatschatur Kanajan, Johannes Wallmann, Jakob Ullmann, Charlotte Seither, Arnulf Herrmann, Paul Frick and Sergej Newski.
He was a member of the Academies of Fine Arts of East Berlin (from 1978) and of West Berlin (from 1990, before the unification of both academies), and Dresden (from 1995). He was also a member of the German-French Cultural Council, and Deutscher Musikrat (German Music Council, a member of the International Music Council). From 1990 until 1997 he was president of the German section of the International Society of Contemporary Music (ISCM) (Müller 2001). Awards include the Hanns-Eisler-Preis, Kulturpreis and Nationalpreis of the GDR.
Friedrich Goldmann died in Berlin on 24 July 2009. He was 68 years old. His grave is located at Berlin’s Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof cemetery. Currently the majority of his autograph scores are located at the archive of Berlin’s Akademie der Künste.
His oeuvre can be differentiated roughly by three creative periods. His early works since 1963 develop until the beginning of the 1970s in several stage musics as well as chamber music and three "Essays" for orchestra. In these he initially employed serialist and cluster techniques, later claiming he considers most of them "to be thrown away." Around 1969 Goldmann developed a technique of appropriating established musical forms (such as sonata, symphony, string quartet, etc.) and "breaking them open from within", thereby changing their impact and meaning (Stürzbecher 1979, 58). This allows for discrete handling of multiple layers, exposing the "breaking points" while integrating new musical material. Important examples of this phase are Bläsersonate (1969) and Symphony 1 (1971), both of which are major early examples of the deconstruction of the idea of linear progress in New Music since the 1970s.
From the end of the 1970s a new tendency evolved that would dominate his third creative period, especially since the late 1990s: autonomous, "absolute" composition (Dibelius 1988, 286-288). that integrates all possibilities of contemporary classical music. Instead of working with discrepancies, as in "polystylism" or his previous works for instance, Goldmann sought interactions and integrations of techniques and material. This approach aims at developing an “objective” musical language as well as overcoming assumed antagonisms between different “layers of material.” Within the resulting consistent shapes formed from transitions between tones, microtones and noise, assumed parameter boundaries are meant to dissolve perceptually – thus challenging the concept of musical material as a set of stable entities. Important examples are String Quartet 2 (1997), Quartet for Oboe, Violin, Viola and Violoncello (2000) and Quasi una sinfonia (2008).
- Dibelius, Ulrich. 1988. Moderne Musik II 1965–1985. Munich: Serie Piper.
- Müller, Gerhard. 2001. "Goldmann, Friedrich". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
- Stürzbecher, Ursula. 1979 "Interview mit Friedrich Goldmann". Komponisten in der DDR. 17 Gespräche, 58. Hildesheim: Gerstenberg.
- Friedrich Goldmann website with list of works, bibliography and further links
- Facebook page
- Friedrich Goldmann at Edition Peters Publishers