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Michael Denhoff (Composer)

Born: April 25, 1955 - Ahaus, Westphalia, Germany

The Grman composer and cellist, Michael Denhoff, made his first composition attempts at 10 and received decisive impulses by Günter Bialas. Since 1973 he studied at the Musikhochschule in Cologne, where his teachers included Günter Bialas and Hans Werner Henze (composition), Siegfried Palm and Erling Blöndal Bengtsson (cello) and the Amadeus Quartet (chamber music as a member of the Denhoff Piano-Trio). He also studied composition with Jürg Baur. From 1976 to 1980 he was awarded a stipend from the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes.

As a composer and chamber musician, Michael Denhoff occupied various teaching posts. He taught theory of music and composition at the University of Mainz from 1984 to 1985. Since 1982 he has lived and worked as freelance composer and cellist in Bonn, where he conducted the Akademischen Orchester (which he founded) from 1985 to 1992 and has been a member of the Ludwig Quartet since 1992. As a cellist, he formed the Denhoff Piano Trio with his brother Johannes (violin) and the pianist Richard Braun. In 1996 began a close co-operation as cello-piano duo with the pianist Birgitta Wollenweber. Further to this he is often called to give courses in chamber-music and composition, as, for example, from 1997 to 1999 as visiting professor at the National Music Academy of Hanoi (Vietnam). Since 2008 he teaches chamber music at the Robert Schumann University in Düsseldorf.

Michael Denhoff's music shows the influence of poetry and the visual arts. Several of his orchestral and chamber works have been inspired by lyrics and paintings. Thus, there are instrumental works and cycles based on pictures by Chagall, Klee, Kandinsky, Dürer and especially Goya (El sueño de la razon produce monstruos, 1982; Desastres de la guerra, 1983; Los disparates, 1988). The literary figures who have most left their mark on his music are Rilke, Celan, Beckett and Mallarmé. Other works characteristic of his compositional thought include cycles in the form of 'musical diaries' (Klangtagebuch, 1984; Hebdomadaire, 1990). The most significant of these works is the piano quintet Hauptweg und Nebenwege (1998), which lasts nearly three hours. This piece gathers together the essential aspects of his music, their relationship to musical tradition, and also the influences of literature and the visual arts. Denhoff's compositional vocabulary shows evidence of a sensitive feeling for harmony and form, whose roots are to be found in composers such as Bernd Alois Zimmermann, Olivier Messiaen, Morton Feldman and György Kurtág.

For his compositional œuvre he has been the recipient of many prizes (amongst others: 1st prize at the Hitzacker and Bergisch-Gladbach composition competitions, prizes from the cities of Stuttgart and Dortmund and the regions North Rhein Westphalia and Lower Saxony, the Bernd-Alois Zimmermann-Prize (1986) and most recently the Annette von Droste Hülshoff Prize (1989). A Villa Massimo stipend made possible a study-residence (1986-1987) in Rome, in 1996 he was awarded a further stipend (“Villa La Collina“) in Cadenabbia.

A considerable number of CD’s document his extensive output. CD’s featuring Denhoff's works are available on the WERGO, Col Legno and Cybele labels.

In 2000 Michael Denhoff organised “Jahr100KlavierStücke”, a series of 50 workshop-concerts designed by him together with the pianist Susanne Kessel, given in Bonn and dedicated to a chronological review of the piano music of the 20th century. In 2008 he initiated in Bonn the musical-literary series “WortKlangRaum”.

Selected Works

Music Theatre:
Der Pelikan, chamber opera based on Strindberg, Op. 64

Traumbuch Eines Gefangenen, for baritone, speaker, chorus & orchestra, Op. 51
In Unum Deum, Credo for soprano, baritone, chorus, organ & small Orchestra, Op. 93
Magnificat, for chorus with two solo quartet, saxophone quartet & four percussionists, Op. 98

Voz Mia, Canta, Canta, Op. 37, song cycle on poems by Juan Ramón Jiménez
The Dimension Of Stillness, Op. 58
Credo, Op. 93a

Wie Eine Linie Dunkelblauen Schweigens, Op. 80, seven songs on poems by Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger for mezzo-soprano & accordion
Silence, Et Puis, Op. 101, fragments after last notations of Marguerite Duras for alto & viola

Melancolia, Annäherungen an einen Kupferstich von Dürer, Op. 26
Einsamkeit, in memoriam W. Buchebner, Op. 33
Desastres De La Guerra, Orchesterbilder nach Goya, Op. 36
Nachtbild (Mahler-Momente), Op. 57
Innenräume…Erinnernd, Op. 71
Match, for saxophone Orchestra & big drums, Op. 90

Umbrae in memoriam B. A. Zimmermann, for violin, violoncello & orchestra, Op. 13
Omaggio, for violine, oboe & orchestra, Op. 40
Remarks And Reviews, for saxophone quartet & orchestra, Op. 68

Chamber music
9 String Quartets (Opp. 1, 19, 30, 55, 66a, 70, 73, 79, 83a)
5 Piano Trios (Opp. 7, 27, 74-1, 74-2, 83b)
4 Saxophone Quartets (gegen-sätze Op.39, svolgimenti Op.46, pnoxoud Op.59, Fünf geistliche Gesänge Op.98a)
Moment Musical, for viola & piano (1973)
Champs de Mars, Inventions after Marc Chagall for viola & piano, Op.9 (1975)
Los Disparates, Sketches after Goya for viola, cello & double bass, Op.54 (1988)
Two Once So One, for string quartet, viola & cello, Op.66 (1992)
Mallarmé-Zyklus, 12 Quartets for 12 Musicians, Op.75 (1995-1996)
Tenebrae, for viola & piano, Op.82 (1997)
Hauptweg und Nebenwege, Aufzeichnungen for string quartet & piano, Op.83 (1998)
To and Fro in Shadow, "Nebenweg IV" for viola & piano, Op.83d (1998-1999)
Igitur, Lesart, for chamber ensemble, Op.85 (1998)
Sounds and Shadows for piano, string quartet & viola (or clarinet), Op.86 (1999)
...Ins Ungewisse... (Luigi Nono In Memoriam) for violin & double bass, Op.97 (2004)
...Ouvert..., Meditation for variable Besetzung, Op.99 (2005)
Maramba (zur Erinnerung an Paula Köhlmeier) for flute (also bass flute) & celesta, Op.100 (2005)
Silence, et puis for alto & viola, Op.101 (2006)
Rue Sedaine, 11 P.M. for ensemble, Op.104 (2007)
Zwei Stücke (Two Pieces) for viola & cello (2007)

Nachtfantasien (zu Rilke-Gedichten) for guitar, Op. 31
Aus Tiefer Not, Anrufung for organ, Op. 41
Atemwende, Klavierzyklus nach Paul Celan, Op. 49, 1-7
Monologe I-V, for 5 soloists, Op. 50, 1-5
Hebdomadaire, 52 pieces for year for piano, Op. 62
Skulpturen I-V, for piano, Op. 76, 1-5
Inventionen I-XII, for Player-Piano, Op. 88, 1-12
...Al Niente..., for piano, Op. 95
Nachtschattengewächse, nine pieces for piano, Op. 96

Stille und Umkehr - Betrachtungen zum Phänomen Zeit, in: MusikTexte, Heft 24 (1988), S. 27-38
Rituel von Pierre Boulez - Anmerkungen zur Raum- und Zeitkonzeption, in: Festschrift zum 60. Geburtstag von Prof. Dr. Emil Platen, Bonn (1985), S. 208- 219
Max Reger. Ein für die Musik des 20. Jahrhunderts zu Recht unterschätzter Komponist?! Eine Musikbefragung, in: REGER-STUDIEN 4, Breitkopf & Härtel (1989), S. 105-124, 233-253
Vom Bild-Klang zum Klang-Bild - zum Verhältnis von Bild und Musik in meinen Stücken, in: NZfM 1993 / 6, S. 14-19

Source: Michael Denhoff Website; Wikipedia Website (May 2011)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (August 2011)

Michael Denhoff: Short Biography | Arrangements/Transcriptions: Works | Recordings

Links to other Sites

Michael Denhoff - Componist & Cellist (Official Website) [German/English]
Michael Denhoff on MySpace
Michael Denhoff on Facebook

Michael Denhoff (Wikipedia)
Michael Denhoff (Classical Composers Database)
Michael Denhoff (Klassika) [German]
Michael Denhoff (Komponisten Lexikon) [German]


Thomas Schäfer: Michael Denhoffs „Nachtbild”: Nähe als Hindernis; in: Modellfall Mahler - kompositorische Rezeption in zeitgenössischer Musik (Wilhelm Fink Verlag München, 1999)

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