Toshio Hosokawa was born in Hiroshima. Following initial studies in piano and composition in Tokyo, he came to Berlin in 1976 to study composition with Isang Yun at the Hochschule der Künste. He continued his studies with Klaus Huber at the Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg from1983 to 1986. In 1980, he participated for the first time in the Darmstadt Summer Courses for New Music where some of his compositions were performed. From 1990, he was a regular guest of the festival as a tutor. In subsequent years, the Japanese composer’s reputation continued to increase within the international contemporary music scene and Hosokawa received numerous commissions. From 1989 to 1998, the composer was the artistic director and organiser of the annual Akiyoshidai International Contemporary Music Seminar and Festival in Yamagushi which he had co-founded. Since 2001, he has additionally been the artistic director of the Japanese Takefu International Music Festival in Fukuj. He was appointed as permanent guest professor at the Tokyo College of Music in 2004. Hosokawa lives in Nagano, Japan.
Hosokawa’s compositions include orchestral works, solo concertos, chamber music and film music alongside works for traditional Japanese instruments. Influences from both Western music - from Schubert to Webern - and the culture of traditional Japanese music can be recognised in his compositions. Hosokawa considers the compositional process to be instinctively associated with the concepts of Zen Buddhism and its symbolic interpretation of nature. In the instrumental work In die Tiefe der Zeit (1994), the cello represents the male principle and the accordion the female and the surrounding cosmos is reflected in the form of air and clouds by the strings; each individual note has a particular significance, defying silence in their tonal characteristics and thereby becoming elements of a superordinated philosophical concept. The orchestral work Circulating Ocean was composed in 2005 as a commission for the Salzburg Festival. Valery Gergiev conducted the world premiere and the British premiere took place at the BBC Proms a year later under the baton of Kazushi Ono. Hosokawa’s piano concerto Lotus under the moonlight was premiered by the NDR Symphony Orchestra and the pianist Momo Kodama in 2006 as homage to Mozart. Seiji Ozawa conducted the first performance in Japan with the Mito Chamber Orchestra and the work received its German premiere under the direction of Kent Nagano and the DSO.
In the oratorio Voiceless voice in Hiroshima (1989/2000-01) for soloists, narrator, choir, accompanying tape (playback tape) (ad lib.) and orchestra, Hosokawa takes as his subject the devastating atomic bomb explosion at the end of the Second World War in the city of his birth. The composer approaches the unutterable through his extreme musical language – the brutal tonal world of brass and percussion and the colourful chordal landscape of the choir. His first opera Vision of Lear was premiered at the Münchener Biennale in1998. Hosokawa succeeds in bridging East and West in his Shakespeare adaptation: modern European musical theatre meets the Japanese traditions of Nō-Theatre on the basis of the Renaissance play. Hosokawa’s second opera, Hanjo, was first staged at the Festival in Aix-en-Provence in 2004, followed by further performances in Brussels, Hamburg, Lisbon, Bielefeld, Lyon, Tokyo and Milan.
Hosokawa has received numerous awards and prizes: the Irino Prize for Young Composers, first prize in the composition competition for the 100th anniversary of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (both in 1982), the Arion Music Prize (1984), the Composition Prize of the Young Generation in Europe (1985), the Kyoto Music Prize (1988) and the Rheingau Music Prize and the Duisburger Music Prize in 1998. Hosokawa was appointed as member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin in 2001. In 2006/07 and 2008/09, he undertook a period of research at the Institute for Advanced Study [Wissenschaftskolleg] in Berlin. He was Composer in Residence at the Biennale di Venezia (1995, 2001), the International Summer Academy of the Mozarteum in Salzburg (1998), the International Music Festival of Lucerne (2000), musica viva in Munich (2001), Klangspuren in Schwaz (2002), Musica nova Helsinki (2003), Acanthes in Villeneuve-lez-Avignon (2003) and also Warsaw Autumn (2005, 2007). Hosokawa has been Composer in Residence at the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra since 1998.