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Sir Harrison Birtwistle CH died on 18 April, aged 87, prompting a wave of obituaries, tributes and homages to the pioneering British composer, one of the most original figures in contemporary music.

Boosey & Hawkes pays homage to Harrison Birtwistle, the leading British composer of his generation, who died on 18 April, aged 87. He leaves behind a significant and varied oeuvre, from intimate chamber scores to powerful operas, with earlier works published by Universal Edition and later works by Boosey & Hawkes.

As a special celebration of Birtwistle, Boosey & Hawkes hosted an online score reading of his orchestral nocturne Night’s Black Bird featuring live chat commentary with the composer’s close collaborators, performers and friends from around the world. The event is still available for free viewing, with the Boosey & Hawkes score accompanied by the award-winning NMC recording by the Hallé Orchestra conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth.
> View the Night's Black Bird Score Video tribute
> View video feature with Birtwistle's Editor, Sally Cox
> Read Jonathan Cross’s Birtwistle tribute on boosey.com

International news media, music magazines, radio and websites contributed obituaries and tributes summing up Birtwistle’s achievements:

“…a great modernist whose music is imbued with stubborn power and a sense of unreachable mystery… rooted in the primordial formal elements of music and ritualised theatrical gesture. This gives it an air of being simultaneously modern and ancient.”
The Guardian

“…the most feted British composer of his generation, adored by his younger colleagues, for whom he was an artistic father-figure… his music is sensuous, often exquisite, but never pretty or picturesque. Rather, the feeling is always one of an unflinching engagement with the natural and human worlds, or with the turbulent point at which the two meet.”
Financial Times

“Birtwistle’s interests were always primarily in drama and form, whether writing for the opera house or the concert hall. His compositions tended to be deeply ritualistic, as blocks of material were etched and etched again in sounds dominated by woodwind, brass and percussion.”
New York Times

“His work, always a challenge, not a balm, is often described in terms of monumental blocks, but each is made of hundreds of notes that must be selected, rejected, chosen anew, with no short cut. He envied the painter’s ability to make big marks with a single brushstroke. Simplicity and ritual mattered to him, not only in his music.”
The Observer

“…a powerful sense of controlled, even relentless progress is one of his music’s most marked characteristics, particularly in his ritual and processional pieces.”
The Times

“His works, controversial at first, but gradually accepted as masterful, original and enduring, are notable for their theatrical impact as well as for the composer’s uncompromising and craggy sound world. Unorthodox and often violent, his music takes its inspiration from ritual, myth and the rugged British countryside, yet it can also be dazzling, even sensual at times.”

“…his music could infuriate many but also won him a wealth of admiring listeners, inspired countless performers and influenced many other composers. Immaculately crafted, it also had its own distinctive – if admittedly hard-won – beauty.”
BBC Music Magazine

News media (some may have paywalls or geoblocking):
The Guardian (Obituary)
The Guardian (Tribute)
The Times (Obituary)
The Times (Tribute)
The Observer
Financial Times
The Scotsman
New York Times
Washington Post
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Die Presse
Le Monde

Radio programmes
BBC Radio 3 Music Matters
Bayerische Rundfunk Klassik

Magazines, blogs, websites etc
BBC Music Magazine
The Arts Desk (John Tomlinson)
Art Review
Royal Northern College of Music
Ivors Academy
Universal Edition
France Musique
Giornale della Musica

For further information on Harrison Birtwistle and his music visit www.boosey.com/birtwistle

Photo: Philip Gatward

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