Peter Ronnefeld was born in Dresden in 1935. His father was a violist in the Dresden Staatskapelle, performing in the Semperoper as well as in the concert hall. Considered highly talented at a very early age, his musical education was comprehensive. He was 14 when he finished at the Waldorf School; his first public appearance as a pianist was one year later, in 1946.
He attended the Berliner Musikhochschule, where he studied composition with Boris Blacher and piano with Hans-Erich Riebensahm, while playing horn in the RIAS Youth Orchestra. In 1954 he moved to the Conservatoire in Paris, where his teachers were Olivier Messaien and Yvonne Lefébre. He won a conducting competition in Hilversum a year later, which rounded off his training as a pianist, composer and conductor. That same year he started teaching at the Mozarteum in Salzburg.
He married Minna Lange, the Danish pianist and musicologist, in Vienna in 1958; thereafter – until his early death in 1965 at age 30 – Ronnefeld was a répètiteur at the Vienna State Opera,
assistant to Herbert von Karajan and harpsichordist in Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s Consensus Musicus. He was First Conductor of the opera in Bonn in 1961, before becoming Germany’s youngest General Music Director two years later in Kiel, as he was looked on as a Great White Hope as both conductor and composer.
Due to his short career, constantly at work as a conductor and instrumentalist, Ronnefeld left a rather small number of compositions; two of them – works for the stage and premiered in 1956 – are published by Universal Edition: the ballet Peter Schlemihl and the chamber opera Die Nachtausgabe.
Renowned musical personalities in his milieu and circle of friends included Bernd Alois Zimmermann, Thomas Bernhard, Aribert Riemann, Rolf Liebermann and Michael Gielen.