Universal Edition - Sir Harrison Birtwistle

Sir Harrison Birtwistle

Future Performances

Silbury Air
27.04.2014, Lugano (CH)
Songs by Myself
27.04.2014, Lugano (CH)
29.04.2014, New York (USA)
02.05.2014, Leeds (GB)
Down by the Greenwood Side
09.05.2014, Lewes (GB)


  • ecme
    Bedford and Birtwistle performed in Egypt
    Bedford and Birtwistle performed in Egypt

    Rossen Gergov conducts the Egyptian première of Igor, The Bird Who Couldn’t Sing and a perform [...]

  • Harrison Birtwistle (c) Universal Edition
    Harrison Birtwistle: Bow Down
    Harrison Birtwistle: Bow Down
    Bow Down, Harrison Birtwistle’s music-theatre work from 1977 employs 5 actors and 4 musicians to t [...]
  • Harrison Birtwistle
    Birtwistle’s Punch and Judy in Geneva
    Birtwistle’s Punch and Judy in Geneva
    The Grand Théâtre de Genève is now showing the joint production by the English National Opera and [...]

Sir Harrison Birtwistle

The Composer

Sir Harrison Birtwistle was born in Accrington in the north of England in 1934 and studied clarinet and composition at the Royal Manchester College of Music, making contact with a highly talented group of contemporaries including Peter Maxwell Davies, Alexander Goehr, John Ogdon and Elgar Howarth. In 1965 he sold his clarinets to devote all his efforts to composition, and travelled to Princeton as a Harkness Fellow where he completed the opera Punch and Judy. This work, together with Verses for Ensembles and The Triumph of Time, firmly established Birtwistle as a leading voice in British music.

The decade from 1973 to 1984 was dominated by his monumental lyric tragedy The Mask of [...]

About the Music

The anecdote may be apocryphal but it has a symbolic value: the world premiere of Punch and Judy, Harrison Birtwistle’s “tragical comedy or comical tragedy”, on 8 June 1968 in Aldeburgh, was attended by Benjamin Britten. Apparently, at one point, Britten could not bear it any longer and left his box before the performance ended. Twenty-one years lie between the births of the two composers – not quite a generation but enough to make them representatives of two wholly different worlds. The older composer just could not find access to that of his younger colleague.

Britten and Birtwistle have one thing in common: unlike some of their compatriots, both have made it across the [...]

10 of 81 Works