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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

Irresistible stories: Myth and art

Irresistible stories: Myth and art

22 June 2015

Fantastical stories thousands of years old continue to influence today’s most prominent artists.

Birtwistle and the Greeks

Birtwistle and the Greeks

16 June 2015

Greek myths and dramas have inspired the acclaimed British composer Harrison Birtwistle throughout his career.

Opera Essentials: The Corridor/The Cure

Opera Essentials: The Corridor/The Cure

9 June 2015

Our quick introduction to this double programme of chamber operas by Harrison Birtwistle.

Photos