Osvaldo Golijov was born on 5 December 1960 and grew up in an Eastern European Jewish household in La Plata, Argentina. Born to a piano teacher mother and physician father, Golijov was raised surrounded by chamber classical music, Jewish liturgical and klezmer music, and the new tango of Astor Piazzolla. After studying piano at the local conservatory and composition with Gerardo Gandini he moved to Israel in 1983, where he studied with Mark Kopytman at the Jerusalem Rubin Academy and immersed himself in the colliding musical traditions of that city. Upon moving to the United States in 1986, Golijov earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied with George Crumb, and was a fellow at Tanglewood, studying with Oliver Knussen.
In the early 90s Golijov began to work closely with two string quartets, the St Lawrence and the Kronos. Both ensembles were the earliest to project Golijov’s volatile and category-defying music in its true, full form, and continue to perform his works regularly. In 2002, EMI released Yiddishbbuk, a Grammy-nominated CD of Golijov’s chamber music, celebrating ten years of collaboration with the St Lawrence String Quartet. The Kronos Quartet released three recordings featuring their collaborations with Golijov: The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind, featuring David Krakauer, as well as Caravan, and Nuevo. Kronos also expanded Golijov’s musical family through collaborations with artists such as the Romanian Gypsy band Taraf de Haidouks, the Mexican Rock group Café Tacuba, tablas virtuoso Zakir Hussain, and legendary Argentine composer, guitarist and producer Gustavo Santaolalla, with whom Golijov continues to collaborate in a variety of projects. For the past eight years Golijov has been inspired by the voice of Dawn Upshaw, for whom he has composed several works, including the Three Songs for Soprano and Orchestra, the opera Ainadamar, the cycle Ayre, and a number of arrangements of popular songs.
In 2000, the premiere of Golijov’s St. Mark Passion took the music world by storm. Commissioned by Helmuth Rilling for the European Music Festival to commemorate the 250th anniversary of J. S. Bach’s death, the piece featured the Schola Cantorum of Caracas, with the Orquesta La Pasión (especially assembled for this work by Golijov together with percussionist Mikael Ringquist), all conducted by Maria Guinand. The CD of the premiere of this work, on the Haenssler Classic label, received Grammy and Latin Grammy nominations in 2002. For the premiere of Ayre, Golijov founded another virtuoso ensemble: The Andalucian Dogs. Together with Dawn Upshaw, they premiered the piece at Zankel Hall and recorded it for Deutsche Grammophon. The recording was released in January 2006 to great acclaim, winning a Gramophone Award in 2006 and a Grammy in 2007.
Golijov has received numerous commissions from major ensembles and institutions in the U.S. and Europe. He is the recipient of a Mac Arthur Fellowship, among many other awards. In addition to the artists mentioned above, he collaborates closely with Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony, with whom he is currently recording several works for Deutsche Grammophon; conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya, vocalist Luciana Souza, cellists Maya Beiser and Matt Haimovitz, and percussionist Jamey Haddad; young, multi-talented musicians such as Michael Ward-Bergeman, Gonzalo Grau, Ljova, and Jeremy Flower; ensembles including the Boston Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and eighth blackbird; artist Gronk, playwright David H. Hwang, and director Peter Sellars, who staged a sold-out and critically acclaimed run of Ainadamar at the Santa Fe Opera in 2005.
Golijov has been composer-in-residence at the Spoleto USA Festival, the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Music Alive series, Marlboro Music, Ravinia, and several other festivals. In November 2005 he was named co-composer in residence, with Marc-Anthony Turnage, at the Chicago Symphony for the 2006–07 and 2007–08 seasons. He will also be working with the Silk Road Project and with Dawn Upshaw at Carnegie Hall in two educational workshops. Golijov is an Associate Professor at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, where he has taught since 1991, and is also on the faculty of the Boston Conservatory.
In January and February 2006 Lincoln Center presented a festival called “The Passion of Osvaldo Golijov”, featuring multiple performances of his major works, chamber music, late nights of Tango and Klezmer, and a night at the Film Society. London’s Barbican Centre also presented two evenings of his music in early 2006, and the Atlanta Symphony featured his works throughout the season. In August, his cello concerto Azul was premiered by its dedicatees Yo-Yo Ma and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
September 2006 saw the release of Ainadamar, recorded with Dawn Upshaw and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus directed by Robert Spano. The recording was highly acclaimed, winning a Prix Caecilia (Brussels) and two Grammy Awards for “Best Classical Contemporary Recording” and “Best Opera Recording” in 2007.
Osvaldo Golijov was the first composer-in-residence of New York’s “Mostly Mozart” Festival in the summer of 2007. In July 2007, Oceana, Tenebrae and Three Songs were released by Deutsche Grammophon. Golijov’s “muse” Dawn Upshaw was praised for her “magnificent performance” (Los Angeles Times). Francis Ford Coppola’s latest film, Youth Without Youth, for which Golijov composed the music, was premiered at the Rome Film Festival in October 2007 and the soundtrack released on the Yellow Label.
In April 2007 his Rose of the Winds, commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, was premiered by them together with the Silk Road Ensemble conducted by Miguel Harth-Bedoya. Future projects include a new opera, commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera.
His works are published by Ytalianna Music Publishing.