Over the past decade, composer Georg Friedrich Haas has risen to prominence on the European continent “as a highly sensitive and imaginative researcher into the inner world of sound.” (Universal Edition) Sometimes favorably compared with influential antecedents such as György Ligeti or Gerard Grisey for his embrace of microtonality, micropolyphony and techniques associated with the French Spectralist School, Hass delivers music equally influenced by multiple streams of the American avant garde with hints of the masters of the common practice era. While it is true that Haas’ work exhibits a strong affinity towards spectral construction – its tones marking out the naturally occurring harmonic series in the orbit of a strongly asserted or implied fundamental pitch – this construction only provides the framework for a larger musical discourse thrust forth through every means at Haas’ command. In response to stylistic categorizations however, Haas observes, “I am not really comfortable with being pigeonholed … I am a composer, free to use the means needed for my music.”
Born in Graz, Austria in 1953 Haas was raised in the mountainous province of Vorarlberg near the Swiss border in an existence somewhat removed from the cultural progress of the outside world. As he notes in an interview with Bálint András Varga, in the cultural isolation of his upbringing his only contact with music came in the form of his parents’ record collection of early Romantic composers. Awareness of contemporary music would only come in his young adulthood. He recalls first hearing the music of John Cage as a young man via radio in the overnight hours of his compulsory Austrian military service. Then, returning to Graz in 1972 for musical studies in composition, piano and pedagogy at the Graz Musikhochschule one of his teachers, Gerold Amann, revealed to Haas newly premiered works of Ligeti, Berio and Penderecki.
In 2007, nominated by his former teacher Friedrich Cerha, Haas was awarded the Großer Österreichischer Staatspreis (Grand Austrian State Prize) of the Republic of Austria and this honor has been followed by the SWR Symphony Orchestra Composition Prize in 2010, the Music Award of the City of Vienna in 2012 and the Music Award Salzburg in 2013. Since 2005 Haas has lived and worked in Basel, Switzerland where he teaches composition at the Hochschule für Musik, Musik-Akademie der Stadt, Basel. He continues to enjoy regular performances and premieres with the many of the great ensembles on the European continent and his influence continues to expand on the international stage.