Born on 27 April 1941 in Chemnitz, Goldmann’s music education began in 1951 when he joined the Dresden Kreuzchor. At age 18, he was awarded a scholarship by the City of Darmstadt to study with Karlheinz Stockhausen (Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, 1959), who further encouraged him over the following years. Subsequently, Stockhausen invited him to the Darmstadt courses of 1961 and 1962, but he was unable to travel after the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961. He studied composition at the Dresden Conservatory from 1959, taking his exam two years early in 1962. From 1962 until 1964 he attended master classes at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin with Rudolph Wagner-Régeny. Simultaneously he began working as a freelance music assistant at the Berliner Ensemble where he met and befriended other composers, writers and directors, including Heiner Müller, Luigi Nono, Ruth Berghaus and BK Tragelehn. He also met Paul Dessau, who became a close friend and mentor. From 1964 until 1968, he studied musicology at Humboldt University of Berlin. Thereafter he worked as a freelance composer and conductor, and continued writing for theatre productions.
His oeuvre includes numerous chamber works, five symphonies, several solo concertos (for piano, oboe, trombone and violin) and orchestral works as well as the opera R.Hot bzw. Die Hitze. As a result of aesthetic restrictions imposed by East German cultural politics, he was initially limited almost exclusively to theatre music. From the late 1960s, with a shift in politics, the suppression of New Music was gradually lessened by the state apparatus, allowing a new generation of composers to be performed by newly founded chamber ensembles (such as Gruppe Neue Musik “Hanns Eisler” and Bläservereinigung Berlin), as well as by well-established orchestras (the Staatskapelle Berlin for instance). While the compositional process of Goldmann and his peers was up-to-date with, if not even predating concurrent debates within the international development of New Music, their achievements gained attention with a considerable delay due to a restricted flow of information and performances. From the mid 1970s onward, Goldmann was allowed to accept performances in Western Europe too, which led to widespread recognition and major commissions of his music by leading West German concert institutions as well as early performances in Sweden, Norway, France, Switzerland and Italy.
Major commissions thereafter included several works for Wittener Tage, Ensemble Modern, Konzerthaus, Musikbiennale Berlin, Berliner Festwochen and Staatsoper / Staatskapelle Berlin (who remain his most frequent commissioners throughout his oeuvre), Berliner Philharmoniker, Musica Viva, Arditti Quartet, Scharoun Ensemble, Komische Oper Berlin, Deutschlandradio, Gewandhaus Leipzig, Semperoper, Ny Musikks Ensemble and Staatskapelle Dresden, the 20th anniversary celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Expo 2000 in Hannover, the 425th anniversary of the Saxonian State Library in Dresden, and the Pélerinages Festival in Weimar.
As a conductor, he worked with several orchestras and ensembles - including the Berliner Philharmoniker (CD: Stockhausen “Gruppen”, Deutsche Grammophon), Staatskapelle Berlin (incl. Schönberg’s Moses und Aron, staged by Ruth Berghaus, 1987), SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg, Gruppe Neue Musik “Hanns Eisler” and Scharoun Ensemble - and performed in most European countries, Russia, USA, Japan and South Korea. He had a close working relationship with Ensemble Modern from the ensemble’s earliest days. Their collaborations included a tour of Russia, the French and German first performances of Luigi Nono’s Prometeo, as well as regular performances and recordings of Goldmann’s own works. He also conducted first performances by Helmut Lachenmann, Toshio Hosokawa, H.W.Henze and many others.
From 1988 he was the principal conductor of the Boris Blacher Ensemble in Berlin (now renamed to Ensemble Mosaik). Recordings of his and other composers’ music (Wolfgang Rihm, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Hans Werner Henze) have been released by Wergo, Deutsche Grammophon, Academy, Edel Classics, Nova, BMG, RCA and other labels. In the mid 90s, he was forced to quit conducting for health reasons. Other conductors who have performed his works include Pierre Boulez, Daniel Barenboim, Michael Gielen, Sir Mark Elder, Ernest Bour, Peter Eötvös, Peter Rundel, Kurt Masur and Ingo Metzmacher.
From 1980 to 1991, he taught masterclasses at Berlin’s Akademie der Künste. In 1991 he became professor of composition at the Universität der Künste in Berlin. There, he headed the Institute for New Music from 2003 until 2005. Friedrich Goldmann also held master classes in Seoul (South Korea), Los Angeles (USA) and Tokyo (Japan). Among his students were Enno Poppe, Helmut Oehring, Arnulf Herrmann, Nicolaus Richter de Vroe, Steffen Schleiermacher, Chatschatur Kanajan, Johannes Wallmann, Charlotte Seither, Jakob Ullmann, Paul Frick and Sergej Newski, making him one of the most influential composition teachers of his generation.
He was a member of the Academies of Fine Arts of Berlin and Dresden, the German-French Cultural Council, and Deutscher Musikrat. From 1990 until 1997 he was president of the German section of the International Society of Contemporary Music (ISCM). Among Friedrich Goldmann’s awards and honors are the Hanns-Eisler-Preis, Nationalpreis and Kunstpreis. Like all other composers of his generation of East German origin, he received no important awards after 1990.
Friedrich Goldmann died in Berlin on 24 July 2009, aged 68. His grave is located in Berlin’s Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof. Currently most of his autograph scores are located in the archives of Berlin’s Akademie der Künste (Friedrich Goldmann Archiv). By 2014, all of his chamber and orchestral works written since 1969 will have been performed in concert.