For the Hungarian composer, conductor and professor Peter Eötvös, music is intense communication between composer, performer and audience. Born in Transylvania in 1944 – a place of longing that would shape his compositions – he sought early contact with contemporary European music cultures. In the 1960s, he forged connections with the Cologne musical avant-garde and in 1978, at the invitation of Pierre Boulez, conducted the opening concert of the Institute de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique in Paris.
Peter Eötvös is one of the most successful opera composers of our time – his extraordinary sound compositions incessantly pose existential questions for which the composer invents musically powerful, often overwhelming responses. With the International Peter Eötvös Institute for young conductors and composers, founded in 1991, he created a platform to pass on knowledge and lived experience to the next generation. From 1992, Peter Eötvös taught at the University of Music in Karlsruhe, took on a professorship at the Cologne Musikhochschule in 1998, to return to Karlsruhe in 2002 for another five years. Since the 1990s, Peter Eötvös has increasingly devoted himself to the composition of concert works and operas. He achieved his breakthrough in 1998 with the opera Trois soeurs, after Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters, which premiered at the Opéra de Lyon as a sensational success. From then on, he has divided his time between conducting and composing, devoting himself to political topics such as in the musical Golden Dragon, commissioned by the Ensemble Modern, which deals with globalisation and migration policies and premiered in 2014 at the Oper Frankfurt.
In his laudatory speech for Péter Eötvös, the writer and playwright Albert Ostermaier spoke about the composer’s ability to make the invisible visible with his music, saying, “Atlantis, as one of his early opuses is called, this Atlantis: it could also be submerged below-stage, or his piece Levitation right here below the shuddering floorboards. Every place is a place of the ears. With him the eyes learn to hear, the ears to see. And much more: He reveals the mechanics of the invisible. He is a linguistic acrobat: His music speaks all languages and every piece speaks a new one. He is a voice acrobat: he learns the languages by listening to the voices, but his voices do not create a Babel, but multiply, overlay, contradict, somersault, merge into a single, universal language that everyone understands and makes everything that we think we do not understand comprehensible in the hearing. His music frees us.”