A German composer born in 1935 at Stuttgart.
After studying the piano, theory and counterpoint at the Musikhochschule of Stuttgart (1955-1958), Helmut Lachenmann was a pupil of Luigi Nono in Venice (1958-1960). Gaining recognition in 1962 at the Venice Biennial with Fünf Strophen and at the classes in Darmstadt with Echo andante, he subsequently took part in Karlheinz Stockhausen’s classes for new music in Cologne (1963-1964).
By the end of the 1960s, Lachenmann had developed the notion of instrumental musique concrète, in reference to the ‘bruitist’ sounds produced by instruments, and elaborated taxonomies based on the mode of production associated with a particular gesture and based too on the resulting sound. He inventively broadened the palette of the performers, differentiated the modes of play, the manipulations, and concerned himself with the whole structure of the instrument. Inviting the listener to active perception, Lachenmann also integrates into his compositions traditional musical objects, notably dance rhythms and evocations of traditional songs or works from the classical repertory. His music is characterised by both æsthetic purification and a rejection of all forms of pre-codified ordering.
His research into what he calls ‘Klang Komposition’ (the composition of sound), led to works for all types of formation, for example Consolation II for chorus, first performance by the Schola Cantorum Stuttgart conducted by Clytus Gottwald in Basel in Switzerland (1968); Pression for cello, first performance by Italo Gomez in Como, Italy (1969); Salut für Caudwell for two guitarists, first performance by Wilhelm Bruck and Theodor Ross in Baden-Baden, Germany (1977); Ausklang for piano and orchestra, first performance by Massimiliano Damerini and the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln conducted by Peter Eötvös in Cologne, Germany (1985); … Zwei Gefühle…, Musik mit Leonardo for two reciters and instrumental ensemble, first performance by the Ensemble Modern conducted by Peter Eötvös in Stuttgart, Germany (1992); Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern, opera first staged by the chorus of the Staatsoper Hamburg and thePhilharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg conducted by Lothar Zagrosek in Hamburg, Germany (1996); Grido for string quartet, first performance by the Arditti Quartet in Melbourne, Australia (2001); Schreiben for orchestra, first performance by the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo, Japan (2005); My melodies for eight horns and orchestra, first performance by the Symphony Orchestra of the Bayerischen Rundfunks conducted by Peter Eötvös at the Festival Musica Viva in Munich, Germany (2018).
A pedagogue, Helmut Lachenmann taught at the Musikhochschule of Stuttgart (1966-1970) and then of Ludwigsburg (1970-1976), before being appointed composition teacher in Hanover (1976-1981) and Stuttgart (1981-1999). He has also been invited to give numerous composition seminars throughout the world.