Composer Friedrich Cerha was born in Vienna in 1926. He started fighting actively against fascism as a student, deserted twice from the German Wehrmacht and survived the end of World War II as the innkeeper of a cabin in Tyrol. In 1946, he entered the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Vienna to study violin, composition and music education. At the same time, he studied musicology, philosophy and German philology at the University of Vienna.

As a concert violinist and music teacher he was in contact with young composers, poets and painters of the avantgarde underground who later joined together to form the Art-Club. He also became part of the Austrian section of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) and analysed works of the Viennese School with Josef Polnauer, a former Schoenberg pupil. In 1956, 1958 and 1959 he attended the Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music. With comrades such as the composer Kurt Schwertsik (and later also H.K. Gruber) as well as his wife Gertraud, he founded the ensemble die reihe in 1958 to create a forum for contemporary music. The ensemble toured extensively to great acclaim presenting works of the Avantgarde, the Viennese School and the early 20th century. From 1959 to 1988 Friedrich Cerha held a position at the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Vienna, where he taught a class of composition, notation and interpretation of contemporary music from 1976 to 1988.

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Cerha8006 Photo Manu Theobald 72


1926 – Born in Vienna on 17 February.

1933 – Violin instruction with Anton Pejhovsky.

1935 – First attempts at composition.

1936 – Attends the Realgymnasium in Vienna's 17th district.

1939 – Instruction in counterpoint and harmony.

1943 – Drafted as Luftwaffe support personnel and sent to Achau near Vienna.

1944 – Entrance into the German military; training at an officers' academy in Denmark.

1945 – Desertion during a transport to Germany; contact to the Danish and German resistance efforts; travel by foot to Tirol. Works there as cabin keeper and mountain guide. Return to Vienna in November.

1946 – Student at the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Vienna: Violin (with Gottfried Feist and Vasa Prihoda), composition (with Alfred Uhl), music education; at the same time at the University of Vienna: German studies, musicology, and philosophy. In the following years, contact with young composers (including Paul Kont), painters and poets, who later joined together to form the Art-Club and became part of the Austrian section of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM). Analysis of works of the Viennese School with Josef Polnauer. Extensive work as a concert violinist.

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Main Works


Spiegel – for large orchestra and tape – 1960

Monumentum für Karl Prantl – for large orchestra – 1988 

Momente – for orchestra – 2005 

Instants – for orchestra – 2006 

Nacht – for orchestra – 2011 

Espressioni fondamentali – for orchestra – 1956 

Impulse – for orchestra – 1992 

Langegger Nachtmusik I – for orchestra – 1969 

Orchestra + Instruments:

Concerto – for percussion and orchestra2007 

Concerto – for soprano saxophone and orchestra2003 

Concerto – for violin and orchestra2004 

Concerto – for violoncello and orchestra1989 

Concerto – for viola and orchestra/ensemble1993 

Phantasiestück in C’s Manier – for violoncello and orchestra/ensemble – 1989

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In addition to this selection of main works, we have assembled all compositions, including unpublished and withdrawn works, in the detailed work catalogue. You can search the database according to various criteria, e.g. by category, title, year, duration or number of performers.