You, too, can learn to love Harrison Birtwistle

You, too, can learn to love Harrison Birtwistle


norman lebrecht

June 05, 2014

Explaining Harrison Birtwistle, who turns 80 this month, to someone who has never heard his music is rather like offering chocolate to a newly-landed Martian. Nothing about the product instantly appeals. It looks earthy, sounds dull and feels, in the worst sense of the word, organic — that is to say, too close to gross fundamentals for comfort or pleasure.

That’s the intro to my new Standpoint essay on the music of an English original. Click here to read more.

birtwistle adam


  • Mark Stratford says:

    === I heard the leader of the BBC Symphony Orchestra talk of smashing his violin

    Yes, this was Rodney Friend. I remember during the premiere at RFH (conducted by Eotvos),

    Mr Friend was scowling away. I’m not sure why the associate concert master, Bela Dekany, wasn’t in the first chair

  • Jonathan says:

    I would like to subscribe to comments only.


  • Will Duffay says:

    Interesting article, and impressive advocacy of the composer.

    Do you see Birtwistle eventually being accepted by the ‘average’ concert-goer or CD buyer, or will he continue to go the way of most other post-war modernist composers and remain very much a minority interest? (A sub-set of the already small set of people who actively engage with classical music!)

    “Birtwistle hates the system of public grants, saying there should be either enough for all, or nothing.” But presumably doesn’t hate it enough to reject grants himself! Would many of his large-scale works have come about if orchestras and opera houses were not given grants of public money? And how does ‘enough for all’ work? Who are ‘all’ and what is ‘enough’??