updated 26 August 2008
© Hanne Engwald

York Höller

German composer born 11 January 1941 in Leverkusen.

York Höller was born on 11 January 1944 in Leverkusen Germany. He belonged to the first generation of composers to emerge from the Federal Republic of Germany. He studied composition in Cologne with Bernd Alois Zimmermann and piano and orchestral conducting with Herbert Eimert, as well as attending the University of Cologne, where he studied philosophy and musicology. In 1965, he participated in the Darmstadt Summer Courses, where he was strongly affected by Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen, two composers who exerted a decisive influence on the development of serial composing. Stockhausen invited Höller to the WDR studio in Cologne, where he worked from 1971 to 1972; later, in 1990, Höller succeeded Stockhausen as the studio’s director.

Early in his career - for example, in his in-depth essay, Critical Analysis of the Technique of Serial Composition — Höller was interested in the question of how contemporary art music is received, in particular in what he analyzed as a divergence between the theoretical ambitions of certain forms of serialism and their purely musical value. In this context, he formulated a certain number of foundational concepts connected to what he called “Gestalt theory” (theory of forms). This phase in his development as a thinker and composer - which followed “informal” and “stocastic” phases - was accompanied by an interest in certain Gregorian melodic structures - the roots of European music - and “genetic code” as the central phenomenon of molecular biology. These explorations ultimately led him to formulate his ideas on Gestalt Komposition and Klanggestalt (sound forms), which would become the syntax of his current musical language.

Höller moved to Paris in 1977, with a commission from the Pompidou Center, Antiphon, for string quartet and tape. In 1978, Arcus was featured at the opening of the IRCAM’s Espace de projection. Pierre Boulez then invited him to conduct a new project at IRCAM, which resulted in Résonance (1980). Höller later returned to the IRCAM to create the electronic part (in the form of audio tapes) of his first opera, The Master and Margarita, based on the Bulgakov novel, which premiered at the Opéra de Paris in 1989.

In the 1980s and 1990s, he composed numerous acoustic pieces, including Concerto pour piano et orchestre n° 1, whose premiere was conducted by Daniel Barenboim, and a workfor large orchestra, Magische Klanggestalt, that premiered in 1986 during a tour of several European countries.

His concertos include Fanal, for trumpet and orchestra, which premiered in 1991 in a performance by the Ensemble Intercontemporain and his second piano concerto Pensées for MIDI piano, orchestra, and electronics (1993). Aura, for orchestra, a commission from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, premiered in a performance conducted by Daniel Barenboim in 1995. In 1999, Aufbruch for large orchestra premiered to mark the move of German parliament from Bonn to Berlin, the occassion for which it was commissioned.

Works from the early 2000s include Gegenklänge, which premiered in a performance by the Ensemble Modern in 2000; Widerspiel for two pianos and large orchestra, which premiered the same year in Cologne; Klangzeichen for piano and wind quintet, which premiered at the Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival in 2003; Fluchtpunkte, which premired in a performance by Ensemble Recherche in 2006; and Zwiegestalt for string quartet and piano, which premiered in Essen in 2008 in a performance by Anthony Spiri and the Minguet Quartett.

© Ircam-Centre Pompidou, 2008


  • Éditions Boosey & Hawkes (voir ressources documentaires)
  • Solo (excluding voice)
    • Fünf Stücke für Klavier (1964), 10 mn, Schott
    • Sonate informelle first piano sonata (1968), 12 mn, Breitkopf & Härtel
    • Sonate for solo cello (1968-1969), 13 mn, Breitkopf & Härtel
    • Sonate n° 2 for piano, homage to Franz Liszt (1986-1987), 15 mn, Boosey & Hawkes
    • Initium for piano (1998), 5 mn, Boosey & Hawkes
    • Resonance for piano (1998), 3 mn, Boosey & Hawkes
    • Verzweigung for solo piano (1999), 2 mn, Boosey & Hawkes
    • Douze préludes for piano (1998-2003), Boosey & Hawkes
    • Monogramme 14 Charakterstücke for piano (1995-2003), Boosey & Hawkes
    • Scan for solo flute (2003-2004), 12 mn, Boosey & Hawkes
  • Chamber music
    • Drei Fragmente for string quartet (1966), 10 mn, Schott
    • Epitaph for Jan Palach, for violin and piano (1969), 7 mn, Schott
    • elec Tangens for cello, electric guitar, piano, electric organ and 2 analog synthesizers (1973), 24 mn, Breitkopf & Härtel
    • Diaphonie homage to Belá Bartók, for two pianos (1974, 1965), 12 mn, Boosey & Hawkes
    • elec Klanggitter for cello, piano, synthesizer and tape (1975-1976), 25 mn, Breitkopf & Härtel
    • ircam Antiphon for string quartet and tape (1984, 1976-1977), 23 mn, Breitkopf & Härtel [program note]
    • Moments musicaux for flute and piano (1979), 10 mn, Breitkopf & Härtel [program note]
    • Pas de trois for viola, cello and double bass (1982), 10 mn, Breitkopf & Härtel
    • Pas de deux for cello and piano (1993), 5 mn, Boosey & Hawkes
    • Tagträume seven sound poems for violin, cello and piano (1994-1995), 18 mn, Boosey & Hawkes
    • Partita for two pianos, or piano four hands (1996), 15 mn, Boosey & Hawkes [program note]
    • Streichquartett n°2 (1997), 20 mn, Boosey & Hawkes
    • Trias for alto saxophone, piano and percussion (2001), 14 mn, Boosey & Hawkes
    • Klangzeichen for piano and wind quintet (2002-2003), 20 mn, Boosey & Hawkes
    • Fluchtpunkte for five instrumentalists (2006), 15 mn, Boosey & Hawkes
    • Zwiegestalt for string quartet and piano (2007), 25 mn, Boosey & Hawkes [program note]
  • Instrumental ensemble music
    • Topic for large orchestra (1967), 13 mn, Schott
    • elec Chroma for large orchestra and live electronics (1972-1974), 18 mn, Breitkopf & Härtel
    • elec ircam Arcus for fifteen instruments, percussion and tape (1978-1979), 20 mn, Breitkopf & Härtel [program note]
    • elec Mythos for chamber orchestra (1979-1980), 24 mn, Breitkopf & Härtel
    • elec Umbra for large orchestra and 4-track tape (1979-1980), 21 mn, Breitkopf & Härtel
    • elec ircam Résonance for ensemble and tape (1981), 20 mn, Breitkopf & Härtel [program note]
    • elec Schwarze Halbinseln for large orchestra and tape (1982), 23 mn, Breitkopf & Härtel
    • Magische Klanggestalt for large orchestra (1984), 11 mn, Boosey & Hawkes
    • Improvisation sur le nom de Pierre Boulez for 15 instruments (1984-1985), 4 mn, Boosey & Hawkes
    • Aura for large orchestra (1991-1993), 21 mn, Boosey & Hawkes
    • Double for orchestra (1996), 11 mn, Boosey & Hawkes
    • Gegenklänge for 18 instruments (1984-1998), 18 mn, Boosey & Hawkes
    • Aufbruch for large orchestra (1998-1999), 15 mn, Boosey & Hawkes
    • Ex Tempore for 9 instruments (2000-2001), 10 mn, Boosey & Hawkes
    • Feuerwerk for 17 instruments (2004), 9 mn, Boosey & Hawkes
    • Sphären for large orchestra (2001-2006), 40 mn, Boosey & Hawkes [program note]
  • Concertant music
  • Vocal music and instrument(s)
    • Herbsttag for mezzo-soprano and 8 instruments (1966), 8 mn, Schott
    • elec Traumspiel sound poem in 5 parts, after the play by Strindberg, for soprano, large orchestra and tape (1983), 25 mn, Boosey & Hawkes
    • elec ircam stage Der Meister und Margarita opera in two acts (1984-1989), 3 h, Boosey & Hawkes
    • elec Margaritas Traum scenes from the opera 'Der Meister und Margarita', for soprano, large orchestra and tape (1991), 23 mn, Boosey & Hawkes
    • elec Der Ewige Tag for mixed choir, orchestra and electronics (1999-2000), 25 mn, Boosey & Hawkes
  • Electronic music / fixed media / mechanical musical instruments
    • elec Horizont for quadraphonic tape (1971-1972), 11 mn, Breitkopf & Härtel


  • Hermann CONEN, « An interview with York Höller », Tempo n° 152, ed. Boosey & Hawkes, 1985, p. 2-6.
  • Stanley HAYNES, « Rapport sur la réalisation d’Arcus, œuvre de York Höller », L’Ircam : une pensée musicale, sous la direction de Tod Machover, éd. des archives contemporaines, coll. Musique de notre temps, 1984, p. 43-68 [traduit en anglais dans Contemporary Music Review, Musical Thought at Ircam, octobre 1984].
  • York Höller, Der Meister und Margarita [livret, entretiens, articles], éd. Opéra National de Paris, 1989.
  • York HÖLLER, Klanggestalt - Zeitgestalt, ed. Bote & Bock, 2004.
  • York HÖLLER, Gesammelte Schriften, Musik der Zeit, Boosey & Hawkes, 581075 AD 184.
  • York HÖLLER, « La composition-forme », dans Conséquences 8 - saisons musicales, collectif, 1986.
  • York HÖLLER, « Composition de la Gestalt, ou la construction de l’organique », L’Ircam : une pensée musicale, sous la direction de Tod Machover, éd. des archives contemporaines, coll. Musique de notre temps, 1984, p. 37-42 [traduit en anglais dans Contemporary Music Review, Musical Thought at Ircam, octobre 1984].
  • York HÖLLER, « Résonance : la composition aujourd’hui », L’Ircam : une pensée musicale, sous la direction de Tod Machover, éd. des archives contemporaines, coll. Musique de notre temps, 1984, p. 69-79 [traduit en anglais dans Contemporary Music Review, Musical Thought at Ircam, octobre 1984].
  • York HÖLLER, entretien dans Contrechamps n° 3, Avant-garde et tradition, collectif, 1984.
  • York HÖLLER, Fortschritt oder Sackgasse? Kritische Betrachtungen zum frühen Serialismus, Pfau Verlag, 1966.
  • Thomas MEYER, « Der Meister und Margarita von York Höller », Dissonance n° 5, août 1985.
  • William MIVAL, « Der Meister und Magarita » Tempo n° 170, sept. 1989, P. 37-38.
  • Jürg STENZL, « York Höller’s The Master and Margarita : A german Opera » Tempo n° 179, dec. 1991, p. 8-15.


  • York HÖLLER, Der Ewige Tag, avec la Symphonie n° 3 de Gustav Mahler, chœur et orchestre de la WDR de Cologne, direction : Semyon Bychkov, 1 Cd Avie, 2004.
  • York HÖLLER, Sonates Pour Piano n° 1 & 2, Pi Hsien Chen, piano, 1 Cd Cpo, 2003.
  • York HÖLLER, Signals : I. Fanal ; II. Pensées ; III. Tagträume, John Wallace, London Sinfonietta, direction : Hans Zender (I), Pi-Hsien Chen, Kölner Radio Sinfonie Orchester, direction : Hans Zender (II), Ravinia Trio (III), 1 Cd Largo Records, 2000, n° 5140.
  • York HÖLLER, Tagträume, dans « Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik 1995 »,avec des œuvres de Karlheinz Stockhausen, Gérard Pesson et Olga Neuwirth, Kulturamt der Stadt Witten und Gesellschaft für Neue Musik Ruhr e.V., 1995, Witten, 2 Cds.
  • York HÖLLER, I. Mythos ; II. Antiphon ; III. Traumspiel ; IV. Improvisation sur le nom de Pierre Boulez, SWF Radio Sinfonie Orchester, direction : Johannes Kalitzke (I), Saarbrücker Streichquartett (II), Karan Armstrong, Peter Lieck, Radio Sinfonie, Orchester Berlin, direction : Lothar Zagrosek (III), Ensemble intercontemporain, direction : Peter Eötvös (IV), 1 Cd Wergo, 1993, WER 6515-2.
  • York HÖLLER, Umbra, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrücken, direction : Hans Zender, 1 Cd Kock Schwann 3-5037-3.
  • York HÖLLER, Sonate für cello solo, Friedrich Gauwerky, 1 Cd ALBEDO ALBCD 013.
  • York HÖLLER, Antiphon, quatuor Arditti, 1 Cd Montaigne, 1992, MO 782036.
  • York HÖLLER, Résonance, Ensemble Modern, direction : Peter Eötvös, 1 Cd MP ORF 08.
  • York HÖLLER, Wiederspiel ; Diaphonie ; Partita, Gürzenich Orchester Kölner Philharmoniker, Helena Bashkirowa, Brigitte Engerer, direction : James Conlon, 1 Cd æon.
  • York HÖLLER, Der Meister und Margarita, Oper der Stadt Köln/Gürzenich Orchester Kölner Philharmoniker/Lothar Zagrosek, 3 Cds col legno, enregistrement live Cologne, 1991, WWE 20059.
  • York HÖLLER, Moments musicaux, Pierre-André Valade, Ichiro Nodaira, avec des œuvres de Giacinto Scelsi, Philippe Durville, Philippe Hurel, Jean-Marc Singier, Philippe Manoury, François Rossé, Klaus Huber, Steve Reich, 1 Cd ADA, 1988, 581075 AD 184.
  • York HÖLLER, Arcus, Ensemble intercontemporain, Peter Eötvös, 1 Cd Erato, 1984, avec des œuvres de Brian Ferneyhough, Jonathan Harvey et Hugues Dufourt, ECD 88261.

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