Harrison Birtwistle

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Harrison Birtwistle

221 performances.

Forthcoming Performances
No forthcoming concerts currently listed.

Past Performances

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List of Works
This list of works is taken from the records of concert details listed in our concerts section. It is not intended to be comprehensive, but serves as a useful link to recent performances of this composer's work.

Recordings available by Harrison Birtwistle

Mention Composition Today in the NMC comments box of the order page and get a free copy of NMCs sampler, New Stock,

Various : Mary Wiegold, soprano

Mary Wiegold, soprano/ Composers Ensemble
Harrison Birtwistle : Ritual Fragment

Antony Pay, clarinet/ London Sinfonietta/ Oliver Knussen, cond
Various : Pastures New: Sampler

Holt/ Birtwistle/ Maxwell : Pulse Sampler

Melinda Maxwell, oboe
Harrison Birtwistle : The Mask of Orpheus

Soloists/ BBC Symphony Orchestra/ BBC Singers/ Andrew Davis, Martyn Brabbins, conductors
Various : A Round-up of NMC: Sampler

Harrison Birtwistle : Ancora: Triumph of Time

Philharmonia Orchestra/ Elgar Howarth, cond
Various : New Stock: Sampler


Harrison Birtwistle Biography

Harrison Paul Birtwistle (born July 15, 1934) is a British composer, widely seen as one of the most significant modern composers from that country.

Birtwistle was born in Accrington in Lancashire. He entered the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester in 1952 on a clarinet scholarship. While there he met fellow composers Peter Maxwell Davies and Alexander Goehr, and together with John Ogdon and Elgar Howarth they formed the New Music Manchester group, which was dedicated to the performances of serial music and other works in a modern vein.

Birtwistle left the college in 1955, and until 1965 he made a living as a schoolteacher, but then received a Harkness Fellowship, which allowed him to study music in the United States. He subsequently dedicated himself to composition.

In 1975, Birtwistle became musical director of the newly established Royal National Theatre in London, a post he held until 1988. From 1994 to 2001 he was Henry Purcell Professor of Composition at King's College London.

Birtwistle's pieces are in a complex modernistic style. His early work is sometimes evocative of Igor Stravinsky and Olivier Messiaen (both acknowledged influences), and his technique of juxtaposing blocks of sound is sometimes compared to Edgar Varèse. His music makes frequent use of ostinatos and often has a ritualistic feel.

Among Birtwistle's better known pieces are the first work he is happy to acknowledge, the wind quintet Refrains and Choruses (1957); the piano piece Harrison's Clocks (1998); the orchestral works The Triumph of Time (1971) and Earth Dances (1986); and the operas Punch and Judy (1967), The Mask of Orpheus (1984), Gawain (1990), and The Last Supper (2000).

Birtwistle gained some notoriety in 1995 when his piece for drum kit, alto saxophone and orchestra, Panic, was premiered at the Last Night of the Proms in 1995. Birtwistle's music had not previously been heard in such a public forum, and most of the press did not hold back in its negative criticism of the piece, heard in a concert traditionally devoted to more popular classics and patriotic pieces.

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Sheet music by Harrison Birtwistle