Günter Kochan (1930-2009) was one of the leading German symphonists of the 20th century. With his voluminous oeuvre covering every genre, he was also among the most frequently performed contemporary composers and outstanding composition teachers in the former state of East Germany.
In his youth he received formative inspiration from Boris Blacher and especially from Hanns Eisler, becoming the latter’s master student at the German Academy of Arts in East Berlin. His riveting musical language is powerful, virtuosic and vibrant, yet always humane, expertly crafted and thoroughly worked out to the last detail. Proceeding from Shostakovich, he managed to create a highly personal style that was not averse to twelve-note technique or influences from the western and eastern European avant-garde. His orchestral music was especially noted for its extremely effective and colourful use of the percussion and an obvious predilection for uninhibited virtuosity in passages for solo instruments.
Among his major works are the once frequently played Second Symphony (1968), the Auschwitz cantata Die Asche von Birkenau on a text by Stephan Hermlin (1965), a Viola Concerto (1973-74) and the impressive orchestral piece In memoriam of 1982, dedicated to the memory of his friends Paul Wiens and Konrad Wolf.
His Sixth Symphony, composed from 2003 to 2006, was premièred posthumously at the Berlin Konzerthaus in 2011.