ANTHONY PAYNE (b 1936 )
Born in London in 1936, Anthony Payne began to compose whilst still at school and went on to study music at Durham University. On leaving University he went through a period of creative uncertainty and began a career as a freelance musicologist, journalist and lecturer, producing such distinguished publications as authoritative studies of Schoenberg and Bridge. In the mid-60s, however, he began to compose his Phoenix Mass, in which he at last discovered a personal language. Since then, Payne’s reputation has grown steadily with each new work. He has received commissions from many important soloists and organisations, and in 1985 was one of the select few chosen by the BBC to compose a piece in celebration of European Music Year: his Spirit’s Harvest proved to be one of the most exciting orchestral works of the entire season. In July 1990 the orchestral work Time’s Arrow was given its world première in a BBC Promenade Concert by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrew Davis. His orchestral work A Hidden Music (1992) for strings and single winds was commissioned by the London Festival Orchestra for its annual Cathedral Classics Festival and premièred in June 1992 at Westminster Cathedral. He has written the autobiographical Orchestral Variations - The Seeds Long Hidden for the English Chamber Orchestra (winter 1994) and Empty Landscape - Heart’s Ease (spring 1995) for the Nash Ensemble. He completed an elaboration on the sketches of Elgar’s Third Symphony, a project which has been hailed by critics as the musical event of the decade (Naxos 8.554719).
Payne’s command of large orchestral forces is only one aspect of his rich talent: his chamber works—especially A Day in the Life of a Mayfly which he composed for The Fires of London Ensemble—are more frequently performed in his own country and abroad than is generally the fate of contemporary music.
His vocal and choral settings also reveal both the breadth of his literary knowledge and his exceptional sensitivity to language. Having earned his living for a time as a music journalist, his writings are respected as stylish and authoritative and his easy articulacy makes him a popular and frequent broadcaster.