A composer of truly international stature, Mark-Anthony Turnage is among the most relevant communicators and creators of today. His orchestral and operatic music is often forthright and confrontational, unafraid to mirror the realities of modern life, yet its energy is exhilarating. With his flair for vivid titles, and his complete absorption of jazz elements into a contemporary classical style, Turnage produces work with a strong appeal to an enquiring, often young audience. At the same time his music is capable of expressing deep tenderness, especially emotions associated with loss.
Born in Britain in 1960, Turnage studied with Oliver Knussen and John Lambert, and later with Gunther Schuller. With the encouragement of Hans Werner Henze, he wrote his first opera for the Munich Biennale festival, Greek, which received a triumphant premiere in 1988. The many ensuing productions worldwide established Turnage's international reputation. The important works that followed, Three Screaming Popes, Kai, Momentum and Drowned Out, stemmed from a four-year period as Composer in Association with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle, from 1989 to 1993.
Three years later Blood on the Floor was commissioned by Ensemble Modern. Written for John Scofield, Peter Erskine and Martin Robertson, it demonstrates Turnage's ability to draw inspiration from the unique sounds of particular performers, often working in close collaboration. Turnage's major work in the late Nineties was his second full-length opera, The Silver Tassie, premiered in February 2000 to exceptional acclaim at English National Opera, where he was Composer in Association. It won both the South Bank Show and Olivier Awards for Opera in 2001. The new century also brought Turnage's appointment in 2000 as the BBC Symphony Orchestra's first Associate Composer culminating in a major Turnage weekend at the Barbican in January 2003.
In the autumn of 2002, Sir Simon Rattle conducted Blood on the Floor at one of his first concerts as Chief Conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, attracting a largely new, younger audience to the Berlin Philharmonie and generating the Berlin Philharmonic's first major education project. Rattle and the BPO commissioned Ceres, an 'orchestral asteroid' which received its premiere performance in March 2006. Other significant works from the new century include Bass Inventions, premiered by the bass player Dave Holland in Amsterdam in May 2001, and Scorched, co-written with John Scofield for jazz trio and orchestra, premiered in September 2002 with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra and Big Band, conducted by Hugh Wolff.
The trumpet concerto From the Wreckage was written for soloist Hakan Hardenberger, who brought it to the 2005 Proms after its Helsinki premiere. Of the London performance, The Times critic wrote: 'this was outstanding: a kind of rebirth piece in which the music begins hellishly but gradually picks up a bluesy swing as the soloist rhapsodically spirals higher and higher. I was mesmerised.'
Working during the 2004/05 season with the London Philharmonic led to Mark-Anthony Turnage's appointment as Composer in Residence with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 2005 which ran until 2010. The residency was celebrated with Turnage's first violin concerto (Mambo, Blues and Tarantella) written for Christian Teztlaff and the LPO with Vladimir Jurowski and premiered at the South Bank Centre in September 2008, with subsequent performances in Stockholm and Toronto from the co-commissioning partners. A final new work to celebrate the residency, Texan Tenebrae, was premiered in London in April 2010.
Turnage was also appointed Mead Composer in Residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 2006 until 2010 for whom he wrote two new works, From All Sides and Chicago Remains. Turnage has previously written for other major American orchestras: Scherzoid was a New York Philharmonic/London Philharmonic commission, while his viola concerto On Opened Ground was commissioned by the Cleveland Orchestra for Yuri Bashmet.
A Constant Obsession (Wigmore Hall, 5 March 2009) for the Nash Ensemble and Mark Padmore, Five Views of a Mouth (Glasgow Fruitmarket, 18 April 2009) for BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and flautist Dietmar Wiesner, and Out of Black Dust (Berlin Philharmonie, 25 May 2009) were recent additons to the repertoire, while Hammered Out at the 2010 Proms and Twisted Blues with Twisted Ballad written for the Belcea Quartet were works completed before Turnage took time out to write his third opera. Anna Nicole, was premiered at Covent Garden in Spring 2011 with six sold-out houses and broadcasts on television and radio.
Mark wrote two ballet scores in 2011/12 - Undance for Sadler's Wells, a collaboration with Wayne McGregor and Mark Wallinger and Trespass for the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden as part of their Metamorphosis: Titian 2012 project, choreographed by Alastair Marriott and Christopher Wheeldon. A new cello concerto for Paul Watkins received its premiere in 2012 while in Spring 2013 Turnage was featured composer with the London Symphony Orchestra, for whom he wrote a new work Speranza. New concertos for pianist Marc-André Hamelin and jazz drummer Peter Erskine were premiered in Autumn 2013.
Much of Turnage's music is recorded on Decca, Chandos, EMI, Black Box and the London Philharmonic Orchestra label. Scorched, on Deutsche Grammophon, was nominated for a Grammy, while Etudes and Elegies is a released on the Warner label. Turnage is Research Fellow in Composition at the Royal College of Music, and published by Boosey & Hawkes. Works written before 2003 are published by Schott.
This biography can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with the following credit: Reprinted by kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes