Music is a sensuous art form, perhaps the most sensuous of all, and in its creation must also move listeners and audiences. (Wilfried Hiller)
Wilfried Hiller was born in the Swabian town of Weißenhorn on 15 March 1941. Following his piano studies at the Augsburg Conservatory (Wilhelm Heckmann), he originally found employment as an organist and ballet accompanist before commencing studies in composition (Günther Bialas), opera direction (Heinz Arnold), percussion and timpani (Ludwig Porth, Hanns Hölzl) and music theory (Hermann Pfrogner) at the Musikhochschule in Munich in 1963. From 1967, Hiller was percussionist at the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz and Bavarian State Opera. A year later, he founded the concert series "Musik unserer Zeit" which was later known as the “Münchner Musiknächte” (1981). The following years were influenced by Hiller’s cooperation with Carl Orff whom he had met in 1968 and with whom he remained in close contact for the remainder of Orff’s life. In 1971, Hiller was appointed as musical editor at Bavarian Radio; in the same year, the collaboration began with his subsequent wife, the actress Elisabet Woska. Additional artistic impulses were provided through music theatre projects in a creative partnership with Michael Ende from 1978 onwards. Hiller took up a teaching post at the Musikhochschule in Munich in 1991 and was appointed as teacher of composition at the Richard Strauss Conservatory in 1993. Hiller was the president of the Bavarian Music Council between 2005 and 2008. Since 2008, he has been the chairman of the Carl Orff Foundation and the artistic director of the International Organ Week in Nürnberg since 2009.
Wilfried Hiller and Michael Ende enjoyed a long spell of successful collaboration. Beginning with enigmatic fantasy figures such as Filemon Faltenreich or the cheeky Lindwurm, Hiller was able to develop a personal poetical and narrative musical language far removed from the compositional fashions of the avant-garde. Works such as Die zerstreute Brillenschlange (1979), Vier musikalische Fabeln (1980-82), Der Goggolori (1982/83), Das Traumfresserchen (1989/90) and Der Rattenfänger (1992/93) have become contemporary music theatre classics which have also succeeded in revolutionising children’s theatre through the past few decades with their blend of originality, parody, clarity and subtlety.
Following the death of Michael Ende (1995), Hiller initially collaborated with Herbert Asmodi (Die Geschichte vom kleinen blauen Bergsee und dem alten Adler) and since1997 has also worked together with Rudolf Herfurtner (Eduard auf dem Seil, 1998/99; Pinocchio, 2001). The composer has in addition utilised literary texts by Christian Morgenstern (Heidenröslein, 1996), Theodor Storm (Der Schimmelreiter, 1996/97) and Wilhelm Busch (Der Geigenseppel, a work commissioned by the cultural programme of the German Pavilion at the EXPO 2000). In 2004, the “life ballad” of the Minnesinger Wolkenstein (libretto by Felix Mitterer) received its first performance in Nürnberg. This was followed in 2005 by the “sacred operas” Augustinus, ein klingendes Mosaik in 2005 in Munich and Der Sohn des Zimmermanns in 2010 in Würzburg, both with texts by Winfried Böhm. In addition to his works for the stage, Hiller has composed a wealth of chamber music works, solo concertos and compositions for choir and orchestra.
In 1968, Hiller was awarded the Richard Strauss Prize, in 1971 the Encouragement Prize for Music in Munich, in 1977 the Prix Brno for the radio portrait “Carl Orff” and in 1977 the Recognition Prize of the City of Salzburg for Niobe. Hiller has also been the recipient of scholarships from the Villa Massimo (1978, 1981, 1983), the Schwabing Kunstpreis für Musik (1978) and the Raiffeisen Encouragement Prize (1988). Since 1989, he has been a member of the Bavarian Academy of the Fine Arts. In 1997, he was awarded the Egk Prize, in 2000 the Bavarian Poetentaler and in 2010 the Wilhelm Hausenstein Medal and the Bavarian Maximiliansorden for Arts and Sciences.