Johannes Kalitzke, born in 1959 in Cologne, studied church music there from 1974 until 1976. After passing his school-leaving examinations, he studied piano with Aloys Kontarsky, conducting with Wolfgang von der Nahmer and composition with York Höller at the Cologne Music Academy. A stipend of the Study Foundation of the German People made it possible for him to study at IRCAM in Paris, where he was a pupil of Vinko Globokar, and simultaneously in Cologne with Hans Ulrich Humpert (electronic music).
His first engagement as a conductor was in 1984, at the Gelsenkirchen Music Theatre in the Revier, where he was principal conductor from 1988 to 1990. In 1991 he became artistic director and conductor of the Ensemble MusikFabrik, of which he was a co-founder.
Since then he has been a regular guest conductor with ensembles (Klangforum Wien, Collegium Novum Zürich, Ensemble Modern) and with numerous symphony orchestras (including the NDR Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, BR Symphony Orchestra and the Munich Philharmonic). There have also been opera productions (including the State Opera Unter den Linden Berlin, the Stuttgart Opera, the Vienna Festival, the Munich Biennial and the Salzburg Festival).
He has toured Russia, Japan and the USA. Numerous CD recordings complete his activities as an interpreter of classical and contemporary music.
As a composer he has received several commissions for the Donaueschinger Musiktage and Ultraschall Berlin, among others. Orchestral pieces were written for the Festival Eclat in Stuttgart, the RSO Vienna and the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra. His first musical theatre piece, Bericht vom Tod des Musikers Jack Tiergarten was premiered at the 1996 Munich Biennale, his second opera Molière oder die Henker des Komödianten, a commissioned work for the State of Schleswig-Holstein, as well as his third opera, Inferno after Peter Weiss, were premiered at the Bremen Opera. An opera based on the novel The Obsessed by W. Gombrowicz was commissioned by Theater an der Wien for 2010. The Augsburg Philharmonic commissioned a silent film orchestra music for the film Die Weber (1927) in 2011, followed by the opera Pym after E.A.Poe for the Theater Heidelberg. Currently, he continues to focus on orchestral music for Expressionist silent film, among others as commission for the Wittener Tage für Neue Kammermusik and the Carinthian Summer 2019.
His teaching activities include ensemble seminars at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen and at the Hannover Academy, the directorship of the ensemble forum at the Darmstadt Summer Courses, the directorship of the conducting forum for ensemble music of the German Music Council as well as conducting courses at the Salzburg Summer Academy. Since 2015 he is professor for conducting at the Universität Mozarteum Salzburg and taught as a guest at the Reina Sophia Music School Madrid and the Zurich Conservatory of Music.
Johannes Kalitzke has received numerous awards including the Bernd Alois Zimmermann Prize of the City of Cologne and a stipend for the Villa Massimo in Rome (2003). He has been a member of the Berlin Academy of the Arts since 2009 and since 2015 he is a member of the Bayerische Akademie der Schönen Künste, München.