Obituary: Composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle Passes at 88

By David Salazar
(Credit: MITO SettembreMusica)

Famed composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle passed away on April 18, 2022. He was 88-years-old.

The composer, who was renowned for a number of operas, was born in Accrington. His parents encouraged his musical education and at seven he started taking clarinet lessons. In 1952, he entered the Royal Manchester College of Music on a clarinet scholarship.

In 1962, he became director of music at the Cranborne Chase School and then went off to Princeton University on a scholarship; it was during that time that he completed his opera “Punch and Judy.”

He would go on to become music director of the Royal National Theatre in 1975 and his composition career would lead him to knighthood in 1988; in 2001 he was made a Companion of Honor. In 1995 he won the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize and in 2006, he was the recipient of the Ivor Novello Award.

Among his major compositions was the opera “The Minotaur,” which The Guardian called the “third-best piece of the 21st century.”Other operatic compositions include “The Mask of Orpheus,” “Gawain,” “The Last Supper,” “The Corridor,” and “The Cure.”