In 1988, the composer Brian Ferneyhough remarked on the pioneering innovation since youth of a goliath – not just of the postwar European avant garde, but of all western music: ‘I doubt that there has been a single composer of the intervening generation who, even if for a short time, did not see the world of music differently thanks to the work of Stockhausen.’

Stockhausen
Stockhausen

Few composers have shone so brightly, and with such intensity of vision, as this child of a Germany shattered following years of extremism and war. And few have ignited such controversy – or passion for and against their music.

Karlheinz Stockhausen was born in 1928 in Burg Mödrath, near Cologne, to fervently Catholic parents. Encouraged with...