Johannes Kalitzke is known for his progressive style of composition, which integrates electronic techniques with methods evolved by various avant-garde composers. Often Kalitzke's compositions are restricted in their range of expression, owing to their narrow limitation on the number of notes employed. The electronic sounds he uses are typically manipulated and his end product, while unified and coherent, is often challenging to the listener. He has been steadfast in maintaining a progressive stance in his compositions; while many other composers from the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries have retreated into a more accessible style, convinced melody, lucidity, and less dissonance are more workable ingredients. He has written in a variety of genres, including opera, vocal, choral, symphonic, and chamber. Not surprisingly, Kalitzke's music is not widely performed or available on recording. Nevertheless, several labels, including RCA, CPO, and Col Legno, have issued discs of his music. Kalitzke has also had a successful career as a conductor, leading both standard classical repertory and contemporary music.
Johannes Kalitzke was born in Cologne, Germany, on February 12, 1959. From 1974-1976 he mainly studied sacred and church music, then enrolled at the Musikhochschule Köln, where his chief teachers were composer and Boulez-student York Höller (composition), Wolfgang von der Nahmer (conducting), and Aloys Kontarsky (piano).
Kalitzke studied at the Paris-based IRCAM (1982-1983), then and still the leading center devoted to electro-acoustical music. While there, he also took private composition lessons from Vinko Globokar and had further studies back in Cologne at the Musikhochschule with Hans Ulrich Humpert.
In 1984 Kalitzke began appearing as a conductor and two years later was appointed director of the Forum für Neue Musik, in Geselkirchen, holding the post until 1991. During this period he produced his large choral work Das Labyrinth der Lieder, for voices, large orchestra, and tape (1987). Kalitzke served as conductor of the Musiktheater im Revier (1988-1990), also in Gelsenkirchen.
In 1991 Kalitzke, along with three others, founded Musikfabrik NRW (North-Rhine-Westphalia), an ensemble devoted to the performance of modern music. From 1991-1997 he served as the group's conductor and artistic director. Kalitzke began his opera Molière oder die Henker des Komödianten in 1995 and completed it in 2000. From 2001 Kalitzke has appeared regularly as the chief guest conductor of the Österreichisches Ensemble für Neue Musik. His recordings include the 2005 Naxos issue of his Symphony No. 3 and the Violin Concerto by Ulrich Leyendecker.