Born in Innsbruck in 1974, the composer Johannes Maria Staud draws much of his inspiration from literature and the visual arts. Reflections on philosophical questions, social processes, and political events also influence his compositions. His artfully constructed works posses a rigorous dramaturgy.
Johannes Maria Staud studied musicology and philosophy in Vienna before continuing his compositional studies with Hanspeter Kyburz in Berlin. In 2002, just one year after graduating, he won the Erste Bank Composition Prize, and in 2003 he won the International Rostrum of Composers prize, followed by the Ernst von Siemens Composers’ Prize in 2004 and the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival’s Paul-Hindemith-Prize in 2009. Prestigious commissions followed. In 2004/05 Apeiron was commissioned by the Berlin Philharmonic under Sir Simon Rattle. In 2006 Segue for violoncello and orchestra was premiered by the Vienna Philharmonic under Daniel Barenboim, commissioned by the Salzburg Festival. In 2012 orchestral work Maniai received its world premiere with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Munich under the direction of Mariss Jansons. He was also “composer in residence” of the Staatskapelle Dresden for the 2010/11 season.
His fascination with the work of Jewish writer and illustrator Bruno Schulz is reflected in works such as Über trügerische Stadtpläne und die Versuchungen der Winternächte (2009) and Zimt. Ein Orchesterdiptychon für Bruno Schulz. The first part of this orchestral diptych, On Comparative Meteorology, was premiered in its original version in 2009 by the Cleveland Orchestra under Franz Welser-Möst and in the revised version in 2010 by the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra under Peter Eötvös; the second part, Contrebande (On Comparative Meteorology II), was commissioned by Pierre Boulez for the Ensemble Modern, which gave the world premiere of the work under Peter Eötvös in 2010. Major ensemble works of recent years include Auf die Stimme der weißen Kreide (Specter I-III), which premiered at the Festival Musica in Strasbourg in 2015, and the diptych Par ici - Par là, performed for the first time in full by the Ensemble Intercontemporain at the ACHT BRÜCKEN festival in Cologne. The violin concerto Oskar (Towards a Brighter Hue II), written for Midori, premiered in 2014 at the Lucerne Festival, as did the opera Die Antilope based on a libretto by Durs Grünbein. Grünbein also provided the textual template for Der Riss durch den Tag (2011), a monodrama for Bruno Ganz.
In the new opera Die Weiden (world premiere in December 2018 at the Vienna State Opera), Johannes Maria Staud and Durs Grünbein reflect on current political trends. The opera tells the story of a young couple traveling on a river, "into the heart of darkness" – right in the heart of Europe, once again a newly divided continent. The composer’s most recent orchestral work, Stromab (“Downstream”), was premiered last season by the Royal Danish Orchestra with its new chief conductor Alexander Vedernikov, with subsequent engagements in Vienna (Vienna Symphony Orchestra under Francois-Xavier Roth), Cleveland and New York (both with the Cleveland Orchestra under Franz Welser Möst). The 2018/19 season begins with another major orchestral work: Scattered Light, inspired by John Cage and the New York School. Without a conductor, the Vienna Philharmonic premiered the work as part of the Vienna Modern´s season opening concert, followed by a guest performance in Berlin.
In 2015/16, Johannes Maria Staud returned to the university where he began his compositional career, standing in for his former teacher Michael Jarrell for one year as professor of composition at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. Beginning in autumn 2018 he will be working as a professor of composition at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg.