According to his publisher, Harrison Birtwistle, a famous contemporary British composer known for his unconventional approach to classical music, died on Monday at the age of 87.
Birtwistle, who was born in 1934 in the northern English town of Accrington, is best known for his operas “Gawain” and “The Mask Of Orpheus,” as well as the renowned symphonic piece “The Triumph of Time.”
Throughout a decades-long career that lasted well into his 80s, his compositions, which ranged from chamber pieces to big operas, were performed by some of the world’s top symphony orchestras in some of the world’s most famous settings.
In a statement on their website, his publisher, Boosey & Hawkes, revealed he died at home in Mere, southwest England. The reason of death was not mentioned.
Birtwistle started his career as a clarinettist and composer at the Royal Manchester College of Music, where he received a knighthood in 1988 and was named a Companion of Honour in 2001.
He subsequently sold his instruments to focus on composition and created the opera “Punch And Judy” as a Harkness Fellow at Princeton University in the United States.
The piece was launched at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1968, together with the instrumental works “Verses for Ensembles” and “The Triumph of Time,” firmly established Birtwistle as a prominent figure in British music.
He was named musical director of the Royal National Theatre in London in 1975, a position he maintained until 1983.
He was generally considered as a trailblazer for his uncompromising approach, with his works typically including a cacophony of sound that split audiences and critics. In one obituary, he was characterized as “elusive and curmudgeonly.”
According to the Royal Philharmonic Society, whose members were among those who paid tribute to him on Monday, his music “shook the earth.”