With great sadness, we have learned of the death of Sir Harrison Birtwistle, who died on April 18, 2022 at the age of 87. He was a rare, but always welcome guest at Ensemble Modern, returning regularly for joint projects. As early as 1985, his ensemble work ›Silbury Air‹ was featured on a programme of a German concert tour. In 2001 the Ensemble Modern Orchestra was conducted by Pierre Boulez in the large-scale orchestral work ›Earth Dances‹; this was followed in 2003 by the world premiere of ›Theseus Games‹ under Martin Brabbins and Pierre-André Valade. Both works were released on CD by Deutsche Grammophon in 2004. Ensemble Modern last met Harrison Birtwistle in Viitasaari, Finland, at the ›Time of Music Festival‹, working on ›Theseus Games‹ with him, Franck Ollu, Steven Schick and the participants of the local academy. Even without his personal presence, his works were featured on recent programmes, such as ›In Broken Images‹ in 2017 and ›Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum‹ in 2021. The opening of the cresc... Biennial for Current Music Frankfurt Rhine Main, originally planned for late February 2022 and postponed to 2023 due to the pandemic, focuses once again on ›Earth Dances‹ – as a joint performance by Ensemble Modern and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra and an acoustic and optical landscape of sound. The work is undoubtedly one of the most impressive compositions of the late 20th century. We had been looking forward greatly to seeing Harrison Birtwistle again on this occasion.
We share his family’s grief and will keep him in our memories.