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Birtwistle, Sir Harrison (Paul)

music univ english prof

eminent English composer; b. Accrington, Lancashire, July 15, 1934. He was a student of Frederick Thurston (clarinet) and Richard Hall (composition) at the Royal Manchester Coll. of Music (1952–60), and then of Reginald Kell (clarinet) at the Royal Academy of Music in London (1960–61). After serving as director of music at the Cranbourne Chase School in Dorset (1962–65), he was a visiting prof. at Princeton Univ. (1966). Returning to England, he co-founded with Peter Maxwell Davies the Pierrot Players in 1967, a contemporary music en-semble, with which he remained active until 1970. He was a visiting prof. of music at Swarthmore Coll. (1973–74) and the State Univ. of N.Y. at Buffalo (1975). Returning once more to England, he was active as music director at the National Theater in London from 1975. In 1987 he received the Grawemeyer Award of the Univ. of Louisville for his opera The Mask of Orpheus . He was knighted in 1988. In 1995 he was awarded the Siemens Prize. In his compositions, Birtwistle departed completely from the folkloric trends popular in modern English music and adopted an abstract idiom, one marked by an expert handling of various elements in a thoroughly contemporary idiom. His operas constitute a significant contribution to the British stage.

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