Reference Entry

Birtwistle, Sir Harrison

Jonathan Cross

in Oxford Music Online

Published in print January 2001 |
Published online January 2001 | e-ISBN: 9781561592630 | DOI:

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(b Accrington, Lancs., July 15, 1934). English composer. Along with his soft Lancastrian accent, his North Country origins have never entirely left him – indeed, they continue to colour his distinctive musical voice. This colouring is at its most obvious in a work such as the opera Yan Tan Tethera (1984), which draws on a folktale concerned with the rivalry between a northern and a southern shepherd. Birtwistle’s description of the piece as a ‘mechanical pastoral’ is telling: it implies that the natural coexists with the man-made, that the rural is somehow tempered by the urban. The composer’s childhood home was a small-holding on the edge of Accrington, at the point where the rural and the urban met, and he grew up knowing both natural and industrial landscapes. Examples of pure pastoral are rare in his work. More usually, the pastoral and the urban complement one another, as in ...

Reference Entry.  7503 words. 

Subjects: Contemporary Music

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