A British composer born July 15, 1934 in Lancashire (United Kingdom).
A clarinettist by training, Harrison Birtwistle studied composition at the Royal Manchester College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music in London. An emblematic British composer of the twentieth century, influenced by Varèse, Stravinsky and Messiaen, Birtwistle writes post-tonal music in which scansion and beat are of particular importance. Keenly interested in Greek tragedy, he excels in opera and music theatre (Punch and Judy, 1968; The Mask of Orpheus, 1986; The Minotaur, 2007), to which dense orchestral textures and variegated vocal writing confer expressionistic intensity. Birtwistle also composes for orchestra and chamber groupings, often treating instruments as characters, as in his conception of music theatre (Verses for Ensembles, 1969; Secret Theatre, 1984). Medieval music also feeds his inspiration, in particular that of Guillaume de Machaut (Machaut à ma manière for orchestra, 1988), as well as Renaissance music, with notably The Shadows of Night (2001), Semper Dowland, semper dolens (2009) in reference to John Dowland, and also In Broken Images (2012) based on antiphonal music by Gabrieli.