Jonathan Harvey


Born in Warwickshire in 1939, Jonathan Harvey was a chorister at St Michael’s College, Tenbury and later a major music scholar at St John’s College, Cambridge. He gained doctorates from the universities of Glasgow and Cambridge and (on the advice of Benjamin Britten) also studied privately with Erwin Stein and Hans Keller. He was a Harkness Fellow at Princeton (1969–70).

An invitation from Boulez to work at IRCAM in the early 1980s has so far resulted in seven realisations at the Institute, and two for the Ensemble Intercontemporain, including the celebrated tape piece »Mortuos Plango«, »Vivos Voco«, »Bhakti« for ensemble and electronics and Advaya for cello, live electronics and pre-recorded sounds. Harvey has also composed for most other genres: orchestra (»Tranquil Abiding«, »White as Jasmine« and »Madonna of Winter and Spring« – the latter scheduled for a performance by the Berliner Philharmoniker and Simon Rattle in autumn 2006), chamber (four string quartets, »Soleil Noir/Chitra«, and »Death of Light, Light of Death«, for instance) as well as works for solo instruments. He has written many widely-performed unaccompanied works for choir – as well as the large-scale cantata for the BBC Proms Millennium, »Mothers shall not Cry« (2000). His church opera »Passion and Resurrection« (l981) was the subject of a BBC television film, and has received twelve subsequent performances. His opera »Inquest of Love«, commissioned by ENO, was premiered under the baton of Mark Elder in 1993 and repeated at Theatre de la Monnaie, Brussels in 1994. His third opera, »Wagner Dream« is commissioned by Nederlandse Oper in association with the Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg, the Holland Festival and IRCAM, and is to be premiered in 2007.

Harvey is in constant demand from a host of international organisations, attracting commissions far into the future, and his music is extensively played and toured by the major ensembles of our time (Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Intercontemporain, ASKO, Nieuw Ensemble of Amsterdam and Ictus Ensemble of Brussels to name but three). His music has been showcased at Strasbourg Musica, Ars Musica Brussels, Musica Nova Helsinki, the Acanthes and Agora festivals, and at many centres for contemporary music. Some 150-200 performances are given or broadcast each year and about 80 recordings of his music are available on CD. He has honorary doctorates from the universities of Southampton, Sussex and Bristol, is a Member of Academia Europaea, and in 1993 was awarded the prestigious Britten Award for composition. He published two books in 1999, on inspiration and spirituality respectively. Arnold Whittall’s study of his music appeared in 1999, published by Faber & Faber (and in French by IRCAM) in the same year. Two years later John Palmer published a substantial study: “Jonathan Harvey’s Bhakti” Edwin Mellen Press. Harvey was Professor of Music at Sussex University between 1977 and 1993 where he is currently an Honorary Professor. He was Professor of Music at Stanford University (US) between 1995 and 2000, Visiting Professor of Music at Imperial College, London and is an Honorary Fellow of St. John’s College, Cambridge. From 2005 he is Composer-in-Association with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

© Faber Music Ltd 2006