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Harrison Birtwistle

Composer

Biography

English composer Harrison Birtwistle is a leading figure of contemporary music. His operas Gawain (1991) and The Minotaur (2008) were commissioned by The Royal Opera and had their world premieres on the Royal Opera House main stage. In the 2014/15 Season The Royal Opera celebrates Birtwistle's 80th birthday with a double programme of The Cure (a Royal Opera co-commission with Aldeburgh Music and London Sinfonietta) and The Corridor in the Linbury Studio Theatre.

Birtwistle was born in Accrington and studied clarinet and composition at the Royal Manchester College of Music, where his contemporaries included Peter Maxwell Davies and Alexander Goehr. In 1965 he devoted himself to composition and studied at Princeton as a Harkness Fellow. There he completed the opera Punch and Judy, which along with the works Verses for Ensembles and The Triumph of Time first established Birtwistle as a key voice in British music. His diverse portfolio includes the operas The Mask of Orpheus, The Second Mrs Kong, The Io Passion and The Last Supper, the concertos Endless Parade (trumpet), Antiphonies (piano) and Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, chamber works Secret Theatre, Silbury Air, Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum, Pulse Shadows and The Moth Requiem, and, for orchestra, Earth Dances, Exody and The Shadow of Night.

Birtwistle's awards include the Chévalier des Arts et des Letters (1986), a British knighthood (1988) and a British Companion of Honour (2001). He was Henry Purcell Professor of Music 1995–2001 and was Director of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music.

Videos

News and features

Happy birthday Harrison Birtwistle!

Happy birthday Harrison Birtwistle!

14 July 2014

The composer, who celebrates his 80th birthday on 15 July, has a long relationship with The Royal Opera.

Discover Harrison Birtwistle's soundworld

Discover Harrison Birtwistle's soundworld

12 August 2013

Following Birtwistle's the UK premiere of Moth Requiem at the BBC Proms, a look at how the composer creates his signature sounds.

Watch: Ryan Wigglesworth on The Minotaur

Watch: Ryan Wigglesworth on The Minotaur

23 January 2013

The British conductor and composer speaks about Harrison Birtwistle's mythical opera.

Young Artist Profile: Justina Gringyte on the challenges of performing in The Minotaur

Young Artist Profile: Justina Gringyte on the challenges of performing in The Minotaur

21 January 2013

The Lithuanian mezzo-soprano looks back on her career so far.

Opera Essentials: The Minotaur

Opera Essentials: The Minotaur

11 January 2013

As the mythical Minotaur returns to the main stage, an introduction to Harrison Birtwistle's acclaimed opera.

Harrison Birtwistle wins British Composer Award

Harrison Birtwistle wins British Composer Award

5 December 2012

Renowned composer wins in the orchestral category.

Photos