Born: October 12th, 1907
Died: September 5th, 1987
Country of origin: Germany
As one of the most important composition teachers in post-war Germany and as a result of his numerous international guest lectures, Fortner had a strong influence on a younger generation of composers. Among his pupils were Hans Werner Henze, Milko Kelemen, Rudolf Kelterborn, Arghyris Kounadis, Nam June Paik, Robert HP Platz, Rolf Riehm, Wolfgang Rihm, Manfred Stahnke, Wilfried Steinbrenner, Hans Zender, and Bernd Alois Zimmermann.
In 1935 Fortner founded the Heidelberg Chamber Orchestra and in conjunction with South German Radio set up the concert series musica viva in 1947. He succeeded Karl Amadeus Hartmann in becoming director of the musica viva concerts of the Bavarian Radio in Munich, and together with Ernst Thomas ran the series until 1978.
In 1950 Wolfgang Fortner was appointed a member of GEMA’s advisory board. In 1955 he became a member of the Berlin Academy of the Arts, and a year later a member of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. In addition, he served for 14 years (1957-71) as president of the German section of the International Society for New Music. In 1975, the German Dramatists' Union, Germany's oldest writers' federation, elected him president.
As early as 1929, whilst still a student, Fortner concluded a contract for Die vier marianischen Antiphonen which marked the beginning of his professional relationship with Schott. His opera Bluthochzeit after Federico García Lorca (world premiere in Cologne in 1957) became one of the most successful operas after 1945. Fortner's development as a composer ranges from the beginnings of neoclassicism via the application of serial techniques, the incorporation of structures of the medieval isorhythmical motet (Machaut-Balladen, 1973), jazz elements (e.g. in Mouvements, 1953) or orchestral improvisations (In seinem Garten liebt Don Perlimplín Belisa, Elisabeth Tudor) to his last opera That Time after Samuel Beckett (world premiere in Baden-Baden in 1977) in which he used live electronics.
The ballet Carmen-Bizet-Collagen was written by Fortner (in collaboration with Wilfried Steinbrenner) in 1970, based on an idea by the director of the Stuttgart Ballet, John Cranco, who had been inspired to write the libretto by the conciseness of rhythm of Fortner's music.
For his artistic œuvre and his commitment to political and cultural issues, Fortner received numerous honours and awards, including the Schreker Prize of Berlin in 1948, the Spohr Prize of Braunschweig in 1953, the Great Arts Award of North Rhine-Westphalia in 1955, as well as the Bach Prize of Hamburg in 1960, and the Reinhold Schneider Prize of Freiburg in 1977. On the occasion of his 70th anniversary in 1977, he was awarded the Grand Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and honorary doctorates by the universities of Heidelberg and Freiburg. Furthermore, he was given the Golden Needle of the Dramatists' Union and the Richard Benz Medal of Heidelberg.
Wolfgang Fortner died in Heidelberg on 5 September 1987.