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Professor Sir Harrison Birtwistle

  • Emeritus staff

Emeritus Professor


Harrison Birtwistle was born in Accrington in 1934 and studied clarinet and composition at the Royal Manchester College of Music. In 1965 he sold his clarinets to devote his efforts to composition, and travelled to Princeton as a Harkness Fellow where he completed the opera Punch and Judy. This work, together with Verses for Ensembles and The Triumph of Time, firmly established Birtwistle as a leading voice in British music.

The decade from 1973 to 1984 was dominated by his monumental lyric tragedy The Mask of Orpheus, and by a series of remarkable scores: Secret Theatre, Silbury Air, Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum and agm.

His works include the operas Gawain, The Second Mrs Kong and The Minotaur, orchestral scores Earth Dances, The Shadow of Night, Theseus Game, Neruda Madrigales and Angel Fighter and chamber compositions Pulse Shadows, Harrison’s Clocks, Orpheus Elegies and The Tree of Strings.

He has received commissions from leading performing organisations, and his music has been featured in major festivals and concert series world wide.

Birtwistle has received many honours including the 1986 Grawemeyer Award, the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, a British knighthood and the Siemens Prize. He was made Companion of Honour in 2001. Recordings of his music are widely available on major record labels.

He is published by Boosey & Hawkes and Universal Edition.