Brian Ferneyhough

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Brian Ferneyhough (born January 16, 1943 in Coventry , England ) is an English composer .


Ferneyhough studied in Birmingham from 1961 to 1963 and from 1966 to 1967 at the Royal Academy of Music in London . Further studies took place with Ton de Leeuw in Amsterdam and Klaus Huber at the Music Academy of the City of Basel . He has taught since 1973 as a lecturer and assistant to Klaus Huber, since 1978 as a professor at the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg , since 1987 at the University of San Diego ( California ) and has taught at Stanford University since 2000 .

"His first compositions date from 1963, but it was not until the Royan Festival that he established himself as the most inventive and powerful composer of his generation, following those of Pousseur , Boulez , Stockhausen and Xenakis ." (Von der Weid 2001)

Ferneyhough is known for placing the highest possible technical demands on the performers in his compositions. On May 3, 2007, Ferneyhough received the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize including prize money of 200,000 euros.


“Ferneyhough's music could not be written in any other way. She does not want to get involved in the approximate of graphic writing styles, even less would she tolerate a leveling of the sharp rhythmic, colored or gestural edges. Anyone who has ever listened to Ferneyhough trying to vividly illustrate his music, one must have noticed that this composer thinks complex from a very natural inside. His music is by no means speculative, but genuinely his own. If, for example, he suggests a passage by singing, then one perceives the unconditional compulsion to use this notation in the distinctly set fuzziness [...] . His music not only comes from the head, but from a spiritual and sensual whole. Ferneyhough's music [...] is an alternative to dulling our senses, as dictated by the present with its distraction and entertainment mechanisms more relentlessly than ever. "

"Ferneyhough's obsession with 'model' creation itself inevitably results in the establishment of a surrogate metaphysics, a surrogate universe of the artist, and primarily reflects the arbitrary flights of his ego."

“The name Brian Ferneyhough, which was England's most prominent export to the heartland of modern Europe in the 1970s and consolidated its reputation as the spiritual leader of the New Complexity in the 1980s , seems to be a household name even today, but for the best also worst of an inevitable fidelity to extreme musical modernity. "

" [...] Ferneyhough's risks seemed too great at times; his compositional solutions failed to meet the expectations of his exploratory diagnosis of the problems, which he confidently and well articulated - as an extremely rousing speaker. "

“Brian Ferneyhough is one of the last of this school of people who take simple arithmetic ideas rather than deal with the score - we call them blackboard composers. Their forum is only in the classroom; talk about the music. "

[...] Brian Ferneyhough's Time and Motion Study II, for example. Here the main purpose seems to be an exhaustive study of the extent to which the performer can be driven by noise and impossible instrumentation before collapsing and being destroyed. In that sense, it's an ugly and dehumanizing piece. It is exemplary of the way in which the relationship between composer and musician can be promoted, and is the antithesis of aspirations associated with contemporary improvised music; but (to my annoyance) such pieces [by Ferneyhough] tend to gain more credibility than 'works of art'. ”
      - Eddie Prévost

Selected Works

  • 1965 Four Miniatures for Flute and Piano
  • 1966 Coloratura for Oboe and Piano
  • 1966 Epigrams for Solo Piano
  • 1966/67 Prometheus
  • 1968 Epicycle for Twenty Solo Strings (6Vln, 6Vla, 6Vc, 2Db)
  • 1969–1971 Firecycle Beta for Two Pianos and Orchestra with amplification for chamber groups
  • 1969–1980 Funérailles for Ensemble
  • 1970 Cassandra's Dream Song for Solo Flute
  • 1970 Seven Stars for Organ
  • 1971–1977 Time and Motion Study I for Solo Bass Clarinet
  • 1973–1976 Time and Motion Study II for Cello and Electronics
  • 1973-1976 Unity Capsule for Solo Flute
  • 1979–1980 2nd String Quartet
  • 1981 Lemma-Icon-Epigram for Solo Piano
  • 1981 Superscriptio for Solo Piccolo
  • 1982 Carceri d'Invenzione I for Ensemble
  • 1982–1985 Etudes Transcendantales / Intermedio II for Ensemble
  • 1983 Adagissimo for String Quartet
  • 1984 Carceri d'Invenzione IIb for Solo Flute
  • 1985 Carceri d'Invenzione II for Flute and Orchestra
  • 1986 Carceri d'Invenzione III for Ensemble
  • 1986 Mnemosyne 7 for Bass Flute and pre-recorded tape
  • 1986 Intermedio alla Ciaccona
  • 1986 Intermedio alla ciaccona 3 for solo violin
  • 1987 Carceri d'Invenzione IIc for Solo Flute and pre-recorded Tape
  • 1983–1989 Short Shadow II for Solo Guitar
  • 1988 La chute d'Icare for Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra
  • 1989 Trittico per GS for Solo Double Bass
  • 1989–1990 3rd String Quartet
  • 1989–1990 4th String Quartet for String Quartet and Soprano
  • 1991 Bone Alphabet for Solo Percussion
  • 1994 On Stellar Magnitudes for Mezzo-soprano and Ensemble
  • 1995 String Trio
  • 1996–1997 Allgebrah for Ensemble
  • 1996 Incipits for Solo Viola and Ensemble
  • 1997 Flurries for Ensemble
  • 1998–1999 Opus Contra Naturam
  • 2001 In nominees of 3
  • 2003 Les Froissements des Ailes de Gabriel for Guitar and Chamber Ensemble
  • 2004 no time (at all) for two guitars
  • 2005 O Lux for Ten Instruments
  • 2008 Chronos-Aion
  • 2010 6th String Quartet , premier: 2010 by the Arditti Quartet at the Donaueschinger Musiktage
  • 2012 Liber Scintillarum


  • Brian Ferneyhough: shape, figure, style - a preliminary assessment. In: MusikTexte. 37, Cologne 1990.

Secondary literature

  • Ulrich Tadday (Ed.): Music Concepts 140. Brian Ferneyhough. edition text + kritik, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-88377-918-8 .
  • Jean-Noel von der Weid: The music of the 20th century . Frankfurt am Main / Leipzig 2001, ISBN 3-458-17068-5 , pp. 581-598.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Composer Brian Ferneyhough wins 2007 Siemens Music Prize.
  2. Reinhard Schulz: Art as a weapon against our disappearance - Brian Ferneyhough awarded the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize. on:
  3. Fanfare. Volume 3, No. 4-6, 1980, p. 86. (Translation from English: Ref )
  4. a b Classical Source (John Fallas) (Translation from English: Ref )
  5. Classic CD. No. 17, No. 19-20, p. 38 (Translation from English: Ref )
  6. Contact. No. 24–29, 1982, p. 34. (Translation from English: Ref )

Web links