Pioneer in modern classical music and winner of various awards, including the 1979 UNESCO Prize and the 1966 Herder Prize.
He attended the Prague Conservatory and taught at the Bratislava Conservatory. His teachers included Jaroslav Křička, Vítězslav Novák, and Felix Weingartner.
He once held the title National Artist in Slovakia.
He was born in Banská Bystrica, which was eventually renamed Slovakia. His mother Mária Psotková was his first music teacher.
He and Wislawa Szymborska were both recipients of the Herder Prize.