HARRISON BIRTWISTLE (b 1934 )
A fellow student of Alexander Goehr and Peter Maxwell Davies at the Royal Manchester College of Music, Harrison Birtwistle began his professional career as a clarinettist before developing his interests in composition to become one of the leading English composers of his generation. He was knighted in 1988. His interest in theatre is reflected in his stage works and in the seven-year period he spent as music director at the National Theatre in London. His personal musical language reflects influences from Stravinsky, Varèse, Webern, Messiaen, Boulez and Stockhausen, brought together into a remarkable synthesis with his own innovative approach to drama in music. Birtwistle’s compositions include a wide variety of works (orchestral, instrumental and vocal), often involving an element of drama – as in his tuba concerto The Cry of Anubis, with the tuba as protagonist.
Birtwistle’s first opera, Punch and Judy, was staged at Aldeburgh in 1968. Later works have included The Mask of Orpheus, Yan Tan Tethera, Gawain, The Second Mrs Kong and in 2008 The Minotaur: creations of striking originality in structure and conception.