Personalities | (Sir) Harrison Birtwistle | Contemporary | Classical

b. 1934
English composer

Birtwistle, member as a student of the Manchester New Music Group, says his juvenilia are pastiche Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958). Study with Richard Hall opened his ears to Stravinsky, Webern and Varèse, altering his musical style radically. In many ways his music is utterly individual; Birtwistle has said that he was driven to compose in order to try to create the music which existed only in his head. He owes much to stylized ritual and theatre as well as to the heterophonic style of composers such as the fourteenth-century Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300–77). He creates music that feels three-dimensional, shifting textures around to create audible sculptures. His naturally dramatic temperament has enabled him to make a remarkable contribution to both opera and music theatre. Early in his career he worked at the National Theatre in London and his impressive operatic output includes Punch and Judy (1966–67), Gawain (1990), The Second Mrs Kong (1994), The Last Supper (1998–99) and The Minotaur (2005–07).

Recommended Recording:
The Mask of Orpheus, soloists, BBC SO (cond) Sir Andrew Davis & Martyn Brabbins (NMC)

Introduction | Contemporary | Classical
Personalities | Pierre Boulez | Contemporary | Classical


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