© Chris Christodoulou
Brief Biography: JUDITH WEIR‘s interests in narrative, folklore and theatre have found expression in a broad range of musical invention. She is the composer and librettist of several widely performed operas whose diverse sources include Icelandic sagas, Chinese Yuan Dynasty drama and German Romanticism. Folk music from the British Isles and beyond has influenced an extensive series of string and piano compositions. For many years she has worked, in England and India, with storyteller Vayu Naidu; and on film and music collaborations with director Margaret Williams. She spent some time as resident composer with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and has also written music for the Boston Symphony, BBC Symphony and Minnesota Orchestras.
For a complete biography, click here.
|Key Works: |
- King Harald’s Saga
(1979; soprano singing eight roles)
- A Night at the Chinese Opera
- We Are Shadows
(1999; choir, orchestra)
- The welcome arrival of rain
- Tiger under the Table (2002; chamber ensemble)
- Piano Trio Two (2003-4; piano trio)
- CONCRETE (2007; narrator, choir, orchestra)
- Miss Fortune (2011; opera)
|Career Highlights: |
- 1987 premiere of A Night at the Chinese Opera by Kent Opera
- 1995-8 Fairburn Composer in Association, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
- 2000 premiere of woman.life.song at Carnegie Hall, commissioned by Jessye Norman
- 2001 South Bank Show music award
- 2005 premiere broadcast of Armida, opera for Channel Four Television
- 2007 awarded Queen's Medal for Music
- 2008 BBC Symphony Orchestra present Telling the Tale, a weekend of music by Judith Weir
- 2011 premiere of Miss Fortune / Achterbahn at Bregenzer Festspiele, embedded in a composer feature at the festival. Co-commissioned by the Royal Opera House, London
Critical Acclaim: [CONCRETE is] a terrifically accessible and thrilling evocation of the changing history of London, and the Barbican in particular. Vivd, moving and unashamedly lyrical, this was Weir at her glorious, ecstatic best. — Stephen Pritchard, The Observer
...this fascinating piece [CONCRETE], at once incisive and elusive, listener-friendly but potent in substance, is typical of Weir’s compositional craft and imagination… — Geoffrey Norris, The Telegraph
With her three-out-of-three success rate, Judith Weir must be considered one of the most successful British opera composers since Britten. — Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times
[CONCRETE is] quirkily inventive and sparely elegant, with passages of dainty chinoiserie alongside outbursts of almost Wagnerian sonority, it has the Stravinskian capacity to be both witty and beautiful at the same time. — Rupert Christiansen, The Daily Telegraph
JUDITH WEIR is the composer and librettist of a series of operas (King Harald’s Saga, The Black Spider, A Night at the Chinese Opera, The Vanishing Bridegroom and Blond Eckbert) which have been frequently performed in Europe and America. She has written concert works for some notable singers, including Jane Manning, Dawn Upshaw, Jessye Norman and Alice Coote. Together with film director Margaret Williams, she has written music and screenplay for several film operas, including Scipio’s Dream, Hello Dolly, and Armida.
During a period in the 1990s as resident composer with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, she wrote several works for orchestra and chorus (including Forest, Storm and We are Shadows) which were premiered by the orchestra’s then principal conductor, Simon Rattle. Orchestras around the world have played her music, and she has been commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra (Music Untangled and Natural History) the Minnesota Orchestra (The Welcome Arrival of Rain) and the London Sinfonietta (Tiger under the Table).
Folk music from the British Isles and beyond has influenced an extensive group of string and piano compositions written for Domus, the Florestan Trio and the Schubert Ensemble. Her longtime collaborators include storyteller Vayu Naidu, with whom she has performed music and folk tales in England and India. Her growing choral catalogue began with Illuminare,Jerusalem (1985) a carol first heard in the King’s College Cambridge Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.
Judith Weir was born into a Scottish family in 1954, but grew up near London. She was an oboe player, performing with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, and had a few composition lessons with John Tavener during her schooldays. She attended Cambridge University, where her composition teacher was Robin Holloway. She spent several years as a community musician in rural southern England, followed by a period based in Scotland, teaching at Glasgow University and RSAMD. Since the 1990s she has lived in south London. She was artistic director of Spitalfields Festival (1995-2000) and has continued to teach, presently at Cardiff University, where she has been a Visiting Professor since 2006. She received the Queen’s Medal for Music in 2007 and the ISM’s Distinguished Musician Award in 2010.
Judith Weir’s most recent major work is her opera Miss Fortune, which received its first performances at the 2011 Bregenz Festival, directed by Chen Shi-Zheng and designed by Tom Pye. This production opened at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in March 2012. For the 2012 BBC Proms, she composed What's in the Lake?, a site-specific work for Ai Wei Wei's Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, as part of the John Cage Music Walk. New works for 2013 include Blue-Green Hill (for Boston Musica Viva), The Wild Reeds (for organist Thomas Trotter) and a new string orchestra work for the 2013 Aldeburgh Festival.
- Pull Out All The Stops
- Southbank Centre has commissioned new works by Music Sales composers Maxwell Davies, Tavener, Saariaho and others in a celebration of the restoration and 60th anniversary of the Royal Festival Hall Organ.
From March 18 to April 14 2014, Southbank Centre are delighted to be hosting the month-long Pull Out All The Stops Festival – An Organ Celebration which will involve performances and premieres to herald the anticipated arrival of the new organ.
Southbank Centre’s Artistic Director Judy Kelly says…
‘We want to share our passion for the organ and have commissioned new work from eight artists from very different fields: from revered composers such as Kaija Saariaho and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies to visual artist/composer Martin Creed…We hope that this new repertoire will have a life beyond this very special moment.’
The opening gala concert on March 18 2014 will feature the premiere of new work Monument to Beethoven by Tavener and close with the world premiere performance of a piece for organ, brass and youth choir by Maxwell Davies. Succeeding this will be an array of co-commissions and more premieres making this year an exciting one for some of the leading composers of today.
Southbank Centre has commissioned the following for the upcoming organ festival:
March 30 2014
Work to be announced
April 24 2014
The Wild Reeds (London Premiere)
Thomas Trotter, organ
June 26 2014
Work to be announced (UK Premiere - Philharmonia Orchestra; Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor)
Co-commission with Philharmonia Orchestra, Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and Orchestre National de Lyon
Work to be announced
Joint commission with the Royal College of Organists
Work to be announced
Co-commission with Los Angeles Philharmonic, L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
More details including the full-line up for the festival will be announced in April with sales bookings opening on April 26 for Southbank Centre Members and April 29 for general. For further information, please see the Southbank Centre press release.