Thursday, July 15, 2010

Happy birthday, Harrison Birtwistle

Photo by Hanya Chala/Arena PAL

Harrison Birtwistle, the greatest living English composer, is 76 today. Born in Accrington, Lancashire in 1934, he has written nine operas and a large number of orchestral and chamber works, most of them recalling the energy and violence of Varèse or the Stravinsky of The Rite of Spring, along with the latter composer’s brilliant orchestration. As Composition Today puts it:
The raw and visceral music of Harrison Birtwistle often sounds as if it has sprung into being from a point before or beyond the modern world, evoking elemental human or natural forces, whether the stylized violence of Greek tragedy, the elemental cycles of the natural world or the destructive march of time itself.
Yes, he’s that good.

Here’s a clip from his 2008 opera The Minotaur, with John Tomlinson as the Minotaur, Christine Rice as Ariadne and Johan Reuter as Theseus, with the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House under Antonio Pappano. It is available on an Opus Arts DVD, reviewed here, which you can get from Marbecks. It is fantastic.

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