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Composer Peter Eötvös has Died, Aged 80

One of Hungary's major musical figures, Eötvös leaves a substantial output — as well as influence over generations of young composers and conductors

 

The renowned composer, conductor, and teacher Peter Eötvös has passed away at the age of 80, following an extended period of illness.

Born in Székelyudvarhely, Transylvania (then a part of Hungary) in 1944, Eötvös grew up in Budapest, and first began to compose when he was five years old. On the recommendation of Zoltán Kodály, Eötvös studied at Budapest's Franz Liszt Academy of Music, where his composition teacher was János Viski.

He then continued to Cologne, where he worked with Bernd Alois Zimmermann and occasionally Karlheinz Stockhausen. Eötvös became a member of the Stockhausen Ensemble, which enabled him to travel to other countries and become acquainted with their musical cultures — especially that of Japan.

As a conductor, he spent more than a decade at the helm of Ensemble Intercontemporain, during which he prepared the premieres of countless new works.

Eötvös's output was substantial and included operas, symphonic works, concerti, and chamber music. In addition, he spent a great deal of time mentoring young composers and established the Peter Eötvös Contemporary Music Foundation in Budapest. Through this organization, he spent 20 years helping young composers, as well as young conductors, to launch their careers.

His final work was the opera Valuska, which was commissioned by the Hungarian State Opera House and received its premiere in December 2023.

Eötvös's Hungarian identity was central to his work, and he often incorporated Hungarian culture (such as folk tales), or the Hungarian language, into his music. He will be remembered as one of Hungary's major composers, and can rightfully be placed alongside senior colleagues such as Ligeti and Kurtág.

Our condolences to Eötvös's family, friends, and colleagues.

Below, Eötvös conducts the Frankfurt Radio Symphony in a performance of his own work, The Gliding of the Eagle in the Skies.

 

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