Harrison Birtwistle

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Harrison Birtwistle, 2008

Sir Harrison Paul Birtwistle , CH (born July 15, 1934 in Accrington , Lancashire ) is an English composer and is widely regarded as one of the most authoritative modern composers in England.

life and career

Birtwistle studied clarinet and composition at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester from 1952 . Together with composers Peter Maxwell Davies , Alexander Goehr , John Ogdon and Elgar Howarth , he founded New Music Manchester , a community of composers and musicians dedicated to the performance of serial and other contemporary music.

Birtwistle worked as a music teacher and continued his studies in the USA . In 1975 he became musical director of the newly founded Royal National Theater in London and was in this position until 1988. From 1994 to 2001 he was the Henry Purcell Professor of Composition at King's College London , where he was succeeded by George Benjamin .

Compositional style

Birtwistle composes in a complex, modernist style. His early works are influenced by Igor Stravinsky and Olivier Messiaen , and his juxtaposition of sound blocks is compared to compositions by Edgar Varèses .


Birtwistle has received numerous awards, including the Grawemeyer Award in 1986, the Siemens Music Prize in 1995 and the British Order of the Companions of Honor in 2001. He was promoted to Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in 1986 and to the British nobility in 1988 . In 2003 he received the prestigious Music Award from the Royal Philharmonic Society in London. The University of Cambridge awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2010 . In 2015, Birtwistle was awarded the Wihuri Sibelius Prize . He has been an honorary foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 2007 .


  • Orchestral works
    • The Triumph of Time (1971)
    • Earth Dances (1986)
    • Panic (1995)
  • Operas
    • Punch and Judy (1967)
    • The Mask of Orpheus (1984, awarded the Grawemeyer Award in 1987 )
    • Gawain (1990)
    • The Second Mrs. Kong (1994)
    • The Last Supper (2000: Premiere Berlin State Opera , conductor: Daniel Barenboim )
    • The Io Passion (2004 world premiere at the Aldeburgh Almeida Opera)
    • Minotaur (2008)
  • Other works
    • Refrains and Choruses (Wind Quintet, 1957)
    • Tragoedia for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, harp and string quartet (1965) for the Melos Ensemble
    • Harrison's Clocks (pieces for piano, 1998)
    • Nine Settings of Celan (1989–96) for soprano, two clarinets, viola, violoncello, double bass

Film music


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Message from King's College, August 8, 2001 , accessed April 20, 2012.
  2. Universal Edition: Sir Harrison Birtwistle - Biography. Retrieved July 7, 2010 .
  3. ^ List of the RPS award winners , accessed on February 25, 2011.
  4. University of Cambridge  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link / www.cam.ac.uk  
  5. ^ Honorary Members: Harrison Birtwistle. American Academy of Arts and Letters, accessed March 6, 2019 .