Harrison Birtwistle

British composer Harrison Birtwistle was born in Accrington on 15 July 1934. He studied clarinet from the age of seven, encouraged by his mother, and received a clarinet scholarship to study at the Royal Manchester College of Music from 1952. With colleagues Peter Maxwell Davies, Alexander Goehr, John Ogdon and Elgar Howarth, he formed the New Music Manchester group to perform serial and other modernist compositions.

From 1955 he studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London, and then worked as a schoolteacher. Later he studied in the USA, courtesy of a Harkness Fellowship. From 1975 until 1983 he was musical director of the Royal National Theatre in London. From 1994 until 2001 he was professor of composition at King's College London.

Birtwistle wrote many operas, and his orchestral works include The Triumph of Time (1971) and Earth Dances (1986). Awards include a British knighthood and Companion of Honour, the Siemens Music Prize and the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.

Following a stroke several months previously, Harrison Birtwistle died in Mere, Wiltshire on 18 April 2022, aged eighty-seven.


A selection of articles about Harrison Birtwistle

Ask Alice - An encounter with Birtwistle's Minotaur at Covent Garden, for Classical Music agony aunt Alice McVeigh

Timings - Universal Edition's preparations for the Mahler Centenary years (2010-2011), by Jennifer Paull

Bizarre Perception - Alistair Hinton discusses a recent article on English music by David Hamilton

Ensemble. Elemental Music - Malcolm Miller listens to music-theatre works by Harrison Birtwistle

Ensemble. Intensity of Playing - Robert Hugill was at the start of Endymion's 30th birthday celebrations

Record Box. A Crowd Pleaser - Concertos and a symphony by Lee Actor, heard by Ron Bierman

Ensemble. A Bright Future - Malcolm Miller was at the final night of the 2008 BBC Proms in London

Ensemble. Youthful Talent - Contemporary music from the Guildhall Brass Band, enjoyed by Malcolm Miller

Profile. Tête-à-Tête - Bill Newman talks to British pianist Mark Bebbington

Ensemble. Pervasive influence - A return visit to London by the Verdehr Trio, reviewed by Peter Dickinson

Class actions? - Alistair Hinton replies to Patric Standford's latest on 'Class acts'

Ensemble. Rebel to rebel - Beethoven, Berg and others in Cleveland and New York, reviewed by Kelly Ferjutz

Writing new opera - A composer's perspective, by Robert Hugill

European tour - A preview, of sorts, of the Cleveland Orchestra's four-city, three festival visit, by Kelly Ferjutz

Ensemble - Power of understatement. Roderic Dunnett at a new production of Euripides' tragedy 'Bacchae', with music by Sir Harrison Birtwistle

CD Spotlight - Tootling in Accrington. '... a stimulating introduction to Sir Harrison's tonal explorations.' A sound picture of Birtwistle on CD, considered by Robert Anderson

Excited by music - Flautist Kathryn Thomas in conversation with Keith Bramich

Dramatic tableaux - Roderic Dunnett was at Glyndebourne for Birtwistle's 'The Last Supper'