Friedrich Cerha


All of the composer's original music manuscripts, starting with the first composition of the then nine-year-old Friedrich Cerha, dated 1935, are part of the collection. His writings about music theory, cultural and socio-political matters as well as texts about his own works, wide-ranging materials from correspondence, photographs and a variety of documents of reception all bear witness to the composer's artistic and personal development. The extensive collection of audio-visual media —rehearsal and concert recordings as well as portraits and interviews— is also remarkable. With the archive of the ensemble "die reihe" and a stock of materials by Gertraud Cerha, the collection paints the picture of cultural life in Austria in the post-war era. The pre-mortem bequest is currently in the state of very good pre-sorting and is constantly expanded. All archive materials from the years 1935–2008, including audio-visual media, are also available in digital format.

Friedrich Cerha Collection:

Time period: from 1935


  • Music manuscripts (drafts, sketches, clean copies) and copies with handwritten annotations
  • Writings (notes about his own works, writings about music theory and socio-political subjects, drafts for speeches and essays)
  • Adaptations and transcripts of works of other composers


  •   Letters to and from Friedrich (and Gertraud) Cerha

Life documents

  • Certificates, identification cards, official documents
  • Portraits and photographs from rehearsals and performances, with the family and with fellow artists


  • Audio-visual media
  • Music prints (file copies)
  • Posters
  • Programme booklets
  • Press documentation
  • Publishing materials
  • Secondary literature

Cryptographic items

Archive of the ensemble "die reihe"

  • Correspondence, materials on the presentation and broadcast of the concert cycle
    "Paths Into Our Time"

Collection of Gertraud Cerha

  •   Correspondence, texts and presentation materials


Friedrich Cerha was born in 1926 in Vienna. Even before graduating from high school, he  put up active resistance as an air force helper, then deserted twice from the German Armed Forces and was a cabin host in the mountains of Tyrol at the time the war ended. Starting 1946, he studied violin, composition and music education at the Academy of Music in Vienna as well as musicology, German studies and philosophy (Ph.D. awarded in 1950) at Vienna University.
Initially, he was working as a violinist and music instructor. On the one hand, he was in contact with the avant-garde underground scene of young painters and literati around the Art-Club, on the other hand he was affiliated with the Schönberg circle of the Austrian section of the ISCM (International Society for Contemporary Music); a student Schönberg's, Josef Polnauer, gave him private instruction on analysis of works of the Viennese School. From 1956 to 1958, he not only attended holiday courses for New Music in Darmstadt in which he was exposed to the ideas of the international avant-garde but also attended courses of Eduard Steuerman and Rudolf Kolisch where he studied the works of Arnold Schönberg and Anton Webern.
In 1958, he, along with Kurt Schwertsik, created the ensemble "die reihe" which went on to pioneer in the presentation of avant-garde works, works of the Second Viennese School and the entire classical modernism and gained international recognition.

From 1959 on, Friedrich Cerha taught at the Conservatory of Music in Vienna where he held a professorship in the field of "composition, notation and interpretation of contemporary music" from 1976 to 1988.
From 1960 to 1997, he was active as the conductor of renowned ensembles and orchestras at internationally leading institutions in the cultivation of New Music as well as festivals (Salzburg Festival, Berlin Festwochen, Wiener Festwochen Festival, Venice Biennale, Warsaw Autumn, Festival d'Automne Paris, Jyväskylä Festival, Musica Viva Munich, Nutida Musik Stockholm, Neues Werk Hamburg, Musik der Zeit Cologne, etc.) and opera houses (Berlin, Vienna, Munich State Operas, Teatro Colon Buenos Aires, etc.)
In 1978, he and Hans Landesmann founded the cycle "Wege in unsere Zeit" (Paths Into Our Time) at the Vienna Konzerthaus. He continued to direct the cycle until 1983. Starting 1994, his intense interpretational work connected him to the Klangforum Wien whose president he was until 1999.

Cerha's development of a playable version of the third act of Alban Bergs opera Lulu (Premiered 1979 in Paris) has opened up a significant work of the 20th century for the world of music.
His own opera "Baal" premiered in 1981 at the Salzburg Festival, "Der Rattenfänger" premiered in 1987 at the Steirischer Herbst Festival, and "Der Riese vom Steinfeld" premiered in 2002 at the Vienna State Opera.

Cerha received numerous assignments for ensemble, choir and orchestral works by outstanding institutions and festivals (Koussevitzky-Foundation New York, BNP Paribas Paris, Southwest Broadcast Baden-Baden, West German Broadcast, Musica Viva Munich, Berlin Concert House, Steirischer Herbst Graz, Festival de música de Canarias, Vienna Konzerthaus and Vienna Musikverein, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, etc.) and also received numerous awards and honours, most recently, the "Austrian Decoration for Science and Art", the decoration "Officier des Arts et Lettres", and the "Golden Lion" of the Venice Biennale for his lifetime achievement in 2006, the Salzburg Music Award in 2011 and the Ernst von Siemens Music Award in 2012.

Friedrich Cerha died in Vienna on February 14, 2023.


To date, Friedrich Cerha's musical œvre covers around 200 orchestal, chamber and solo works as well as five major musical theatre works.

Besides several adaptations of old music, Cerha attracted international interest with the completion of a playable version of the third act of the opera "Lulu" by Alban Berg in 1979.

Catalogue of Works by Friedrich Cerha

More Information