Born : November 22, 1925 in New York, NY [Jackson Heights]
Died: June 21, 2015 in Boston, MA
Born in Vienna on February 17. Violin lessons at the age of six; first compositions at the age of eight and, at his own request, lessons in harmony and counterpoint
Drafted (before the end of high school). In Denmark, later in Germany contact to the resistance movement who protected him when he left the army
Lives and works as mountain guide in Tyrol, later returns to Vienna for academic studies
1946 - 1950
Studies in composition at the Vienna Academy for Music (Alfred Uhl), violin (Vasa Prihoda), and music education; university studies in German literature, musicology, and philosophy (Ph. D.)
Intense contact with the "Art-Club", a group of avant-garde painters and writers, and with the ISCM, where Josef Polnauer introduces him to the interpretation and analysis of works of the Second Viennese School
1956 - 59
Attends the International Ferienkurse for New Music at Darmstadt, taking part in the courses of Rudolf Kolisch and Eduard Steuermann, among others. Active as violinist and music teacher
Together with Kurt Schwertsik founds the Ensemble "die reihe" in Vienna, a forum for new music and music of the Viennese School. He was a pioneer in presenting new works, the music of 20th century classics, particularly the Viennese school, and soon gained international recognition
1959 - 88
Instructor, from 1976 on professor for composition, notation and interpretation of new music at the Vienna Hochschule fur Musik. Increasing activity as conductor: he conducts at Festivals in Warsaw, Prague, Zagreb, Salzburg, Vienna, Berlin and the Holland-Festival; at opera houses in Berlin (Deutsche Oper) and Buenos Aires (Teatro Colon); the Concertgebouw, Berlin Philharmonic, Cleveland, and at New York's Lincoln Center)
Begins the completion of act 3 of Alban Berg's opera Lulu (premiere of complete version in 1979 in Paris).
1970 - 71
Fellowship of the German Academic Exchange Service in Berlin
Prize of the City of Vienna
Founds a second concert series in Vienna, "Wege in unsere Zeit," which he directs until 1983. Then HK Gruber and Kurt Schwertsik became directors of the ensemble "die reihe"
World premiere of the music theatre piece Netzwerk at the Vienna Festival, world premiere of the opera Baal at Salzburg Festival and subsequent performances at Vienna State Opera.
Conducts Austrian premiere of the completed Lulu at Styrian Autumn Festival
Austrian State Prize for music
1987 Urauffuhrung der Oper Der Rattenfanger beim Steirischen Herbst in Graz und Folgeauffuhrungen an der Wiener Staatsoper
1989 Principal composer of Wien Modern Festival
1996 World premiere of Impulse, commissioned by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Numerous national and international concerts on the occasion of his 70th birthday, Project Friedrich Cerha with seven concerts at the Salzburg Festival, performances of Spiegel at the Berlin Festival
1997 Commission from the Vienna State Opera for the composition Der Riese vom Steinfeld (libretto by Peter Turrini)
1998 World premiere of the commission Konzert for violoncello and orchestra at the Berlin Festival with the Philharmonic Orchestra Berlin under Michael Gielen
1999 Completion of the opera Der Riese vom Steinfeld; Composition of the cycle Im Namen der Liebe (text by Peter Turrini) for baritone and orchestra (commission from Festivals de Musica de Canarias)
2000 composed the orchestra piece Hymnus, commissioned by the Konzerthaus Berlin
2001 World premiere of Five Pieces for clarinet, violoncello and piano, dedicated to Heinrich Schiff on his 50th birthday, composed the Rhapsodie pour violon et piano, a commission from the Jacques Tribaud Competition, Paris started composing the Requiem for solo voices, chorus and orchestra, commissioned by Konzerthaus Wien
2002 World premiere of the opera Der Riese vom Steinfeld at Vienna State Opera
2004 World premiere of Requiem for solo voices, chorus and orchestra
Cerha has been the recipient of commissions from numerous orchestras, festivals and agencies, including the Southwest Radio Baden-Baden, North German Radio Hamburg, Radio Bremen, South German Radio Stuttgart, Radio Orchestra Vienna, Styrian Autumn Graz, Austrian Federal Ministry for Education and Art, Festival Royan, and the Koussevitzky Foundation New York. He has been awarded a number of compositions prizes, e.g. the Prize of the City of Vienna (1974) and the Great Austrian State prize (1986) which he donated for performances of works by young composers.
Gunther Schuller represented, for countless musicians, concertgoers, and record buyers around the world, American music making at its best, almost as much as Leonard Bernstein did a half century earlier. He was composer, conductor, horn player, jazz performer, writer, administrator, publisher, and teacher, all wrapped up into one tidy bundle of seemingly endless energy. Like American music itself. However, Schuller did not always steered clear of controversy -- the very masses that admired him were sometimes baffled by his uncompromising attitudes and blunt statements.
His father played violin in the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for many decades, and it was he who oversaw Schuller's early training. Schuller mastered the French horn with remarkable speed as a student at the Manhattan School of Music (1939-1941) -- in 1942, aged just 16, his horn playing was heard across the country in the American radio premiere of Shostakovich's then brand-new "Leningrad" Symphony. A series of high-profile orchestra jobs followed: first the American Ballet Theater Orchestra, then the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and then 14 seasons in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. During the 1950s Schuller became interested in jazz and made a name for himself as a performer in that field, playing with Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and other jazz stars; in the years to come, Schuller combined jazz and traditional composition in new ways -- something that he called "third stream music." After the 1958-1959 season, Schuller gave up his career at the Met to build a new career as a composer.
Success in the sometimes persnickety world of American serious composition came to Schuller nearly as easily and quickly as success as a performer did, and by 1964 he was on the composition faculty of Yale University. He taught and administered at the Manhattan School of Music, the New England Conservatory, and Tanglewood.
In 1975 he founded his own record label and music publishing companies, GM Recordings and Margun Music (the names are drawn from the first names of Schuller and his wife Marjorie Black). He also wrote several books, including the cherished manual Horn Playing (London and New York, 1962) and the landmark studies Early Jazz: Its Roots and Development (London and New York, 1968) and The Swing Era: the Development of Jazz 1930-45 (New York and Oxford, 1989). In 1997 he poured his many years' experience as a professional conductor into The Compleat Conductor.
As a composer, Schuller ranks among the most eclectic of his generation or any other. Schoenberg's techniques meet jazz meets Stravinskian rhythmicism meets Haydn in ways that one could never imagine without the score on the table. And his output is very large: 20-plus concertos for solo instrument(s) and orchestra, several dozen other orchestral items (including the 1965 Symphony and the 1994 Pulitzer Prize-winning Of Reminiscences and Reflections), better than 70 miscellaneous chamber pieces for ensembles and combinations of all kinds, a pair of operas, and a library of arrangements of other composers' music.
- Blair Johnston (All Music Guide)