English composer Philip Sawyers was born in London in 1951. He began composing as a teenager, shortly after picking up the violin for the first time at the age of thirteen. He studied at Dartington College of Arts in Devon, violin with Colin Sauer, and composition with Helen Glatz (a pupil of Vaughan Williams and Bartók). Whilst at the Guildhall School of Music in London, he studied violin with Joan Spencer and Max Rostal, and received compositional guidance from Buxton Orr, Patric Standford and Edmund Rubbra.
In 1973, Sawyers joined the Royal Opera House Orchestra, Covent Garden. During this period he also freelanced with other orchestras and chamber groups including the London Symphony Orchestra, the English National Opera Orchestra and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, some West End theatre orchestras and in film, pop, and light music sessions, leaving very little time for composition. Time was also taken up with teaching and coaching, principally as a violin coach for the Kent County Youth Orchestra, and as a visiting teacher at various educational establishments.
In 1997, he decided to opt for a quieter life, left the ROH, and undertook a year of postgraduate study at Goldsmith's College, University of London. Alongside composing, Sawyers now works as a freelance violinist, teacher and adjudicator, having spent twelve years as an examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music from 2001-2013.
Sawyers' talent as a composer has only started to be recognised during the last few years, with major commissions and performances by orchestras in the USA, and frequent performances in Europe. In 2015 he was appointed as the English Symphony Orchestra's John McCabe Composer in Association.
CD Spotlight. A British Tint - Giuseppe Pennisi listens to two recent orchestral works by British composer Philip Sawyers. 'The BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Kenneth Woods, gives masterly performances of the two pieces.'
Classical music news. Adrian Williams - The English Symphony Orchestra announces Adrian Williams as its John McCabe Composer-in-Association for 2019/20
CD Spotlight. View from the Celli - Philip Sawyers' Symphony No 3 impresses Alice McVeigh. 'Pummelled strings rise turbulent beneath great brass chords: the entire fisting orchestra soars, confident, triumphant and united at last.'
CD Spotlight. Great Accomplishment - Music by Philip Sawyers, appreciated by Robert Anderson. '... a very cogent argument.'
CD Spotlight. Stylistic Outsiders - An exquisite performance of Elgar's Violin Sonata, heard by Andrew Schartmann. '... no amount of writing can do justice to the last three tracks on this disc.'