Born in Gütersloh on 1 July 1926, Henze received his earliest musical training at the Braunschweig Staatsmusikschule. As a child, he witnessed the branding of modern music, art and literature by the Nazis. After having worked as a repetiteur at the Bielefeld Stadttheater Henze began to study with Wolfgang Fortner at the Heidelberg Institute for Church Music in 1946. In the late 1940s he came across serialism and began to attend the Darmstadt Summer Courses for New Music. After fulfilling his engagements at the Constance Theatre and the Wiesbaden Hessisches Staatstheater, Henze left Germany in 1953 and settled in Italy. It was also the geographical distance to the German contemporary music theory that helped him to achieve new varied forms of expression in his own music. In the late 1970s and early 1980s Henze turned to more traditional forms. From 1962 to 1967 Henze taught a master class of composition at the Salzburg Mozarteum while other teaching assignments led him to the USA and Cuba. In Cologne Henze held a chair at the Staatliche Hochschule fur Musik from 1980 to 1991. In addition, he was appointed composer-in-residence at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood/USA in 1983 and 1988-1996 as well as of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 1991. In 1976 Henze founded the Cantiere Internazionale d'Arte in Montepulciano and in 1988 brought the Munich Biennial: International Festival of New Music Theatre into being which he headed until 1996.