Universal Edition - Blog

Harrison Birtwistle awarded the Wihuri Sibelius Prize

Posted by Johannes Feigl on 12 Oktober 2015

 Harrison Birtwistle (c) Universal Edition, Eric Marinitsch

Congratulations to Sir Harrison Birtwistle: the composer was awarded the Wihuri Foundation’s Wihuri Sibelius Prize on 9 October.

Find out more here

Nicolas Hodges plays Birtwistle

Posted by Johannes Feigl on 22 Juni 2015

Birtwistle: slow frieze, antiphoniesNicolas Hodges presents a recording of Birtwistle’s major works from the 1990s. Among them is the first recording of the revised version of Antiphonies, performed by pianist Nicolas Hodges and the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln under Stefan Asbury.

Bálint Varga on Antiphonies:

This work is not a “piano concerto” in the way the term is usually understood; it is a struggle between the solo instrument – perhaps a struggle for survival – and the menacing, often demonic powers of the orchestra.

The winds and percussion dominate the sonic character while the strings, except for one short melodic fragment, remain in the background. Slow forte sections unleash the full orchestra, between moments of Impressionistic calm, where the piano part seems like an improvisation, a fantasia - until the struggle resumes …

Find out more on the website of Nicolas Hodges.

Wort | Ton | Gestalt: Harrison Birtwistle and Paul Celan

Posted by Johannes Feigl on 04 Februar 2015

Wort | Ton | Gestalt: Harrison Birtwistle and Paul CelanHarrison Birtwistle’s 9 Settings of Celan will be performed tonight by Katrien Baerts and the Klangforum Wien (cond. Bas Wiegers) in the frame of the “Wort | Ton | Gestalt: Harrison Birtwistle and Paul Celan” symposium at the Essl Museum in Klosterneuburg.

Download a pdf of the full programme of the symposium.

King’s College celebrates Birtwistle’s 80th year

Posted by Johannes Feigl on 04 November 2014

Harrison Birtwistle (c) Universal Edition, Eric MarinitschThe King’s College Cambridge celebrates Harrison Birtwistle’s 80th year with the three-day festival ‘Secret Theatres: the music of Harrison Birtwistle’. Celebrations start with an interview between Harrison Birtwistle and Richard Causten on 6 November.

Among the works performed during the event will be the UE-works Secret Theatre, Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum, Silbury Air and Birtwistle’s arrangements of Guillaume de Machaut’s Hoquetus David and Ut Heremita Solus, played by acknowledged performers such as the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and the Arditti Quartet.

The full programme is available on the website of the King’s College.

Find an interview with composer and lecturer Richard Causton, who is running the three-day festival on

“One of the great operatic achievements of our time” turns 20: The Second Mrs Kong

Posted by Johannes Feigl on 24 Oktober 2014

It’s been 20 years since Harrison Birtwistle’s 2-act opera The Second Mrs Kong was performed for the very first time on 24 October 1994 in Glyndebourne.

Die zweite Mrs. Kong, Wiener Operntheater When he reviewed the opera’s production of 2004 (which was also the latest production of the work), Andrew Clements of the Guardian described the work as “one of the great operatic achievements of our time.” (Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 11 November 2004).

Earlier, The Second Mrs Kong had received similar praise in Germany when a translated version was staged in 1996:

“eine kongeniale Vermittlung zwischen Tradition und Moderne […] Ein verspielter Geniestreich” (Reinhard J. Brembeck, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 28.02.1996)

Die zweite Mrs. Kong ist eine Perle unter den neuen Opern – hörfreundlich, amüsant, gefühlig” (Christina Osterwald, Die Rheinpfalz, 12.03.1996)

Happy Birthday Mrs Kong!

There’s also great news for another opera by Birtwistle: director Leonard Prinsloo’s and conductor Walter Kobéra’s Neue Oper Wien production of Punch and Judy has won the Arte Audience Award and the Award for Best Production. Find out more on the website of the Neue Oper Wien.

Watch the production of Punch and Judy on arte:

Live: Punch and Judy

Posted by Johannes Feigl on 14 Oktober 2014 (Kommentare: 1)

Punch and Judy (c) ARTE

Director Leonard Prinsloo’s and conductor Walter Kobéra’s new production of Harrison Birtwistle’s Punch and Judy will be live streamed tonight by arte.

The“tragical comedy or comical tragedy in 1 act” is performed at the Armel Opera Festival at the Erkel Theatre in Budapest.

View the full score of Punch and Judy.

The stream starts in a little less than 6 hours from now, at 19:00 CET/CEST, and will be available until 14 April 2015.

Harrison Birtwistle: Punch and Judy
A tragical comedy or comical tragedy in 1 act | 110'
14.10.2014, Erkel Theatre, Budapest; Jennifer Yoon, Pretty Polly (witch); Manuela Leonhartsberger, Judy (fortune-teller); Richard Rittelmann, Punch; Lorin Wey, Lawyer; Till von Orlowsky, Choregos (Jack Ketch); Johannes Schwendinger, Doctor; Evamaria Mayer, Dancer; Amadeus ensemble-wien, cond. Walter Kobéra

The Triumph of Time

Posted by Johannes Feigl on 15 September 2014

But the music’s real triumph lies in its unfaltering sense of movement. […] From start to finish the work treads like some implacable giant, and because its two main climaxes emerge from the bowels of a unitary experience they generate a violence and despair that transcend rhetoric. The word is on the tip of my pen and I can withhold it no longer. There are elements of greatness in this work. (Peter Heyworth, The Observer, 04.06.1972)

Harrison Birtwistle (c) Universal EditionListen to Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s The Triumph of Time in its entirety on BBC Radio 3 – the programme will still be online for 7 days.

Based on the homonymous allegorical painting by the sixteenth-century artist Pieter Bruegel, the 30-minute piece was first performed in 1972. This recording is from a performance by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Pierre Boulez.

A Portrait of Sir Harrison Birtwistle at the Proms

Posted by Johannes Feigl on 05 September 2014

BBC Proms

Despite a recent heated discussion regarding the BBC and new music, it is good to have Harrison Birtwistle’s 80th Birthday Prom by EXAUDI, the BCMG and Christine Rice at the BBC Proms tomorrow.

BBC Radio 3The “Proms Saturday Matinee 4: A Portrait of Sir Harrison Birtwistle” starts at 4pm CET/CEST (i.e. Berlin, Paris, Vienna), and will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.

On the programme: Verses for Ensembles, Dinah and Nick's Love Song and Meridian:

Harrison Birtwistle: Verses for Ensembles
for 3 instrumental ensembles | 28'
Harrison Birtwistle: Dinah and Nick's Love Song
for 3 melody instruments and harp | 5'
Harrison Birtwistle: Meridian
for mezzo-soprano, 2 female choirs and instruments | 27'
06.09.2014, Cadogan Hall; Christine Rice, ms; Exaudi; Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, cond. Oliver Knussen

Harrison Birtwistle on BBC Radio 3 and Ö1

Posted by Johannes Feigl on 18 Juli 2014

The strength of Birtwistle’s music, and his way of showing time passing at different speeds are for me very striking, much more striking than any other English composer of his generation. (Pierre Boulez on Harrison Birtwistle)

Read more birthday tributes to Harrison Birtwistle on The Telegraph.

Harrison Birtwistle (c) Universal Edition, Eric Marinitsch

Tom Service will introduce an all-Birtwistle programme on BBC Radio 3 in this Saturday’s episode of Hear and Now. Tune in to BBC Radio 3 on 19 July at 23:30 and listen live.

Rainer Elstner has recently dedicated a Zeit-Ton portrait to the composer. Find out more about the show and can listen to a recording of the broadcast on Ö1.

Happy 80th Birthday Harrison Birtwistle

Posted by Johannes Feigl on 15 Juli 2014

Harrison Birtwistle (c) BCMG

Celebrations for Harrison Birtwistle’s 80th already took place earlier this year with the Barbican Centre’s Birtwistle at 80 season, a production of Punch and Judy at the Neue Oper Wien, the publication of Fiona Maddocks’ Harrison Birtwistle: Wild Tracks – A Conversation Diary With Fiona Maddocks, the rerelease of a recording of Gawain by NMC Recordings and a filmed portrait of the composer.

Ö1Nevertheless, you shouldn’t miss out on Ö1’s radio portrait on the composer by Rainer Elstner, which will be broadcast today, on the day of his birthday, at 23:03. Listen live.

Happy Birthday Harrison Birtwistle!

Two angry men: Harrison Birtwistle and Peter Maxwell Davies

Posted by Johannes Feigl on 11 Juli 2014

The Telegraph, Photo: Eamon McCabe/RedfernsIvan Hewett of The Telegraph has written an article on the differences and similarities of Sir Harrison Birtwistle and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, two old friends and rivals.

Read the full article on The Telegraph.

Dürer’s and Birtwistle’s Melencolia I

Posted by Johannes Feigl on 26 Mai 2014 (Kommentare: 1)

Albrecht Dürer: Melencolia IAlbrecht Dürer’s engraving Melencolia I inspired Sir Harrison Birtwistle to write his eponymous work for clarinet, harp and 2 string orchestras in 1976.

Today at 17:00pm CET/CEST BBC Radio 4 broadcasts an episode that focuses on the famous engraving, the composer has been interviewed for the programme. Listen live.

Melencolia I will be performed this Friday at the Barbican Centre in London, Baldur Bronnimann conducts the Britten Sinfonia.

Sir Harrison Birtwistle: Melencolia I
for clarinet, harp and 2 string orchestras |24'
30.05.2014, Barbican Centre, London; Britten Sinfonia, Baldur Bronnimann

Fantasia on all the notes: celebrating Birtwistle

Posted by Johannes Feigl on 08 Mai 2014

Harrison Birtwistle (c) BCMG
The Birmingham Contemporary Music Group has released the concert programme for their birthday concert for Harrison Birtwistle. The concert takes place on Saturday, 10 May at the CBSO Centre.

Find the full programme here.

Harrison Birtwistle: Notes from the end of a garden

Posted by Johannes Feigl on 05 Mai 2014

In his 80th year, Harrison Birtwistle agreed to let his godson, the wildlife filmmaker Tom Mustill, spend time with him in his home, his beautiful garden and the shed in which he composes. The resulting filmed portrait is a touching study of a composer's solitary, strange and satisfying life as well as being an invaluable record of Harrison Birtwistle's working methods.

Barbican Centre: Birtwistle at 80

Posted by Johannes Feigl on 16 April 2014

Harrison Birtwistle (c) Universal Edition, Eric MarinitschThe Barbican Centre has released the first of three podcasts that will look at the music, the myth and the man that is Harrison Birtwistle.

In part one, radio host Ben Eshmade introduces listeners to the Barbican’s Birtwistle at 80 celebration and speaks to Harrison Birtwistle’s peers and collaborators about the composer’s life and work, as well as the great man himself.

Starting on 16 May, the Barbican will celebrate the composer’s 80th birthday with performances including Gawain, Earth Dances and Yan Tan Tethera.

You can listen to the Podcast here and on the Barbican’s SoundCloud page: