British composer Harrison Birtwistle (1934-2022) died today at the age of 87. He learned to play the clarinet and played in the local military-style band, and also in the orchestra that accompanied Gilbert and Sullivan productions. In 1952 he entered the Royal Manchester College of Music in Manchester on a clarinet scholarship. He came in contact with contemporaries including Peter Maxwell Davies, Alexander Goehr, John Ogdon and Elgar Howarth.

In 1975, Birtwistle became musical director of the newly established Royal National Theatre in London, a post he held until 1983. As a composer he slowly became known. In 1995 his saxophone concertante work Panic was premiered in the second half of the Last Night of the Proms to an estimated worldwide television audience of 100 million. In the same year he was awarded the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize.

Besides operas and theatre music, Birtwistle’s output includes many purely instrumental work.

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