Composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle dies aged 87


Composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle has died aged 87, his publisher has confirmed.

Among his many compositions, he is best known for Le Triomphe du temps and his operas including Le Masque d’Orphée, Gauvain and Le Minotaure.

A statement posted on its publisher’s website said: “Boosey & Hawkes and Rayfield Allied announce with deep sadness the death of Sir Harrison Birtwistle CH on 18 April 2022 at his home in Mere, UK at age of 87.”

Sir Harrison was born in Accrington, Lancashire, in 1934 and studied clarinet and composition at the Royal Manchester College of Music.

In 1960, he sold his clarinets to devote himself to composition and went to Princeton University in the United States as a Harkness Fellow where he completed the opera Punch And Judy.

This work, along with Verses For Ensembles and The Triumph Of Time, established Sir Harrison as a leading voice in British music.

Sir Harrison’s music has attracted international conductors and has been featured in major festivals and concert series in Europe, the United States and Japan.

In 1975 he became musical director of the new Royal National Theater in London, a position he held until 1983.

Sir Harrison Birtwistle was made a Companion of Honor in 2001 (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

Sir Harrison received many honors during his life, including being knighted in 1988 and made a Companion of Honor in 2001.

Major musical institutions have paid tribute to the composer, including the Royal Philharmonic Society, which said his “music shook the earth”.

He wrote on Twitter: “We pay tribute to a true musical colossus, the great Harrison Birtwistle, who has sadly passed away.

“A remarkable five-time winner of the RPS award, his music shook the earth. There was strength and power in every note he wrote. We will listen with admiration to his works for decades.

The London Symphony Orchestra also paid tribute, saying: “Sad news to hear today that one of Britain’s greatest composers, Harrison Birtwistle, has died.

“Our thoughts go out to his family and friends, and to his entire musical family.”

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