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Heinz Holliger

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Heinz Holliger
Born21 May 1939 (1939-05-21) (age 85)
Langenthal, Switzerland
EducationConservatory of Bern
Occupation(s)Oboist, composer, conductor

Heinz Robert Holliger (born 21 May 1939) is a Swiss virtuoso oboist,[1] composer and conductor. Celebrated for his versatility and technique, Holliger is among the most prominent oboists of his generation.[1] His repertoire includes Baroque and Classical pieces, but he has regularly engaged in lesser known pieces of Romantic music, as well as his own compositions.[1] He often performed contemporary works with his wife, the harpist Ursula Holliger; composers such as Berio, Carter, Henze, Krenek, Lutosławski, Martin, Penderecki, Stockhausen and Yun have written works for him. Holliger is a noted composer himself, writing works such as the opera Schneewittchen (1998).


Holliger was born in Langenthal, Switzerland.[2] He began playing the oboe at age eleven,[3] and studied at the conservatory of Bern before taking first prize for oboe in the Geneva International Music Competition in 1959.[4] He studied composition with Sándor Veress and Pierre Boulez.[5]

He has become one of the world's most celebrated oboists, and many composers, Luciano Berio, Elliott Carter, Hans Werner Henze, Ernst Krenek, Witold Lutosławski, Frank Martin, Krzysztof Penderecki, Henri Pousseur, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Sándor Veress and Isang Yun have written works for him.[5] He began teaching at the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg, Germany in 1966.

In 1972 Holliger, Maurice Bourgue (oboe), Klaus Thunemann (bassoon), and Christiane Jaccottet (continuo) et al. recorded the Six Trio Sonatas for Oboe and Bassoon by Jan Dismas Zelenka. This recording is credited for the "Zelenka Renaissance".

Holliger has also composed many works in a variety of media. Many of his works have been recorded for the ECM label.

Invited by Walter Fink, he was the 17th composer featured in the annual Komponistenporträt of the Rheingau Musik Festival in 2007 in chamber music and a symphonic concert that he conducted himself, including works of Claude Debussy and Robert Schumann along with his Lieder after Georg Trakl and Gesänge der Frühe on words of Schumann and Friedrich Hölderlin.

On the occasion of Paul Sacher's 70th birthday, Holliger was one of twelve composer-friends of his who were asked by Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich to write compositions for cello solo using his name spelt out in German names for musical notes on the theme (eS, A, C, H, E, Re); Holliger contributed a Chaconne for Violoncello Solo. The compositions were partially presented in Zurich on 2 May 1976. The whole "eSACHERe" project was (for the first time in complete performance) performed by Czech cellist František Brikcius in May 2011 in Prague.[6]

Heinz Holliger was married to the harpist Ursula Holliger née Hänggi (1937–2014) until her death on 21 January 2014.[7]


Selected works[edit]

  • Sequenzen über Johannes I,32 (1962) for harp
  • Siebengesang (1966–1967) for solo oboe, orchestra, voices and loudspeaker
  • String Quartet (1973)
  • Scardanelli-Zyklus (1975–1991) for solo flute, small orchestra, tape and mixed choir
  • Come and Go / Va et vient / Kommen und Gehen (1976/1977), opera to a text by Samuel Beckett
  • Not I (1978–1980) monodrama for soprano and tape
  • Studie über Mehrklänge (1979) for oboe solo
  • Lieder ohne Worte (1982–1994), two sets of works for violin and piano
  • Präludium, Arioso and Passacaglia, for two guitars (1985)
  • Gesänge der Frühe for choir, orchestra and tape, after Schumann and Hölderlin (1987)
  • What Where (1988), chamber opera
  • Alb-Chehr (1991) for speaker, singers and chamber ensemble
  • (S)irató for orchestra (1992–03)
  • Fünf Lieder für Altstimme und großes Orchester nach Gedichten von Georg Trakl (1992–2006)
  • Violin Concerto "Hommage à Louis Soutter" (1993–1995)
  • Schneewittchen (1998), opera based on a text by Robert Walser
  • Partita (1999), piano cycle
  • Puneigä, ten songs with twelve players after Anna Maria Bacher's poems (2000/02)
  • Ma'mounia for percussion solo and instrumental quintet (2002)
  • Romancendres for cello and piano (2003)
  • Induuchlen, four songs for counter-tenor and horn, for Klaus Huber (2004)
  • Toronto-Exercises for flute (also alto flute), clarinet, violin, harp and marimbaphone (2005)
  • Lunea (2018), opera based on texts by Nikolaus Lenau



  1. ^ a b c Burgess 2001, "(ii) Repertory and performers.".
  2. ^ "Heinz Holliger". BBC. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  3. ^ Davis, Peter G. (1981). "Heinz Holliger Refutes Thesis That the Oboe Is an Ill Wind". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  4. ^ Blyth, Alan (November 1972). "An interview with Heinz Holliger". Gramophone. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  5. ^ a b Kunkel & Stenzl 2003.
  6. ^ "eSACHERe". Archived from the original on 10 June 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2011.
  7. ^ Apone, Carl (16 March 1989). "Holliger to debut Soviet oboe work". The Pittsburgh Press. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. p. 27. Retrieved 31 May 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ "Zurich Festival Prize for Heinz Holliger", Schott Music
  9. ^ Newly elected Fellows – 2016 Fellows and Foreign Honorary Members Archived 16 September 2018 at the Wayback Machine, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  10. ^ Kohlschein, Torsten; Holliger, Heinz (23 January 2017). "Bei Schumann finde ich täglich Neues (Interview)". Freie Presse (in German). Chemnitz. Retrieved 24 September 2018.
  11. ^ "Pour le Mérite: Heinz Holliger" (PDF). www.orden-pourlemerite.de. 2018. Retrieved 24 November 2018.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]