The London Sinfonietta is one of the world’s elite contemporary music ensembles with a reputation built on the virtuosity of its performances and ambitious programming. It is committed to placing new music at the heart of contemporary culture and pushing boundaries; the ensemble regularly undertakes projects with choreographers, video artists, film-makers and collaborations with electronica artists, jazz and folk musicians.
The creation of new music has been at the core of the London Sinfonietta’s work since its foundation in 1968. It has commissioned or premiered over 200 works, ranging from Luciano Berio, Harrison Birtwistle and Steve Reich to the emerging composers involved in its Blue Touch Paper project – including Tansy Davies, Larry Goves and Anna Meredith – an innovative initiative which gives the opportunity to take risks and develop ideas without the pressure of a public performance.
Elgar Howarth (b. 1935) studied music at Manchester University and the Royal Manchester College of Music, where his first study was composition. His conducting career began in the early 1970s and since then he has appeared regularly with all the leading British orchestras both in the concert hall and in the recording studio.
His operatic achievements cover a wide repertoire and include the world premiere of Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre at the Stockholm Royal Opera, followed by productions of the same work in Hamburg, Paris and London. In 1985 he made his debut at Covent Garden with King Priam which he later performed with the same company at the Athens Festival. For Glyndebourne he has conducted The Barber of Seville, Falstaff, Nigel Osborne's The Electrification of the Soviet Union and Birtwistle's The Second Mrs Kong and The Last Supper. He conducted the world premiere of Birtwistle's Gawain at Covent Garden in May 1991 and the revivals in 1994 and 2000.
In addition to conducting English Northern Philharmonia from 1985-1989 he appears frequently with the sister company, Opera North (where he was music advisor from 1996-99).
He retains an interest in composing especially, as a former trumpet player, for brass instruments. His works are much recorded, particularly on Decca.
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The London Sinfonietta's classic recording of Birtwistle’s landmark scores, Secret Theatre and Silbury Air, is reissued in NMC's Ancora series.
"No more exciting recording of contemporary music than this has appeared for many a day. It celebrates the virtues, and the virtuosity, of the London Sinfonietta and also celebrates the Sinfonietta’s long association with Harrison Birtwistle, including three of the four most substantial works he has written for them. It is Secret Theatre that makes this new recording special." Gramophone
The works on this disc are published by Universal Edition.
The works on this disc were recorded in January 1987 in Conway Hall, London.
Engineer: MARTIN HASKELL
Producer: ROY EMERSON
Remastering: DAVID LEFEBER for Metier Productions
Executive Producer: COLIN MATTHEWS
Cover design: FRANCOIS HALL
Cover: Foliate Head (1971) by John Piper; image © Tate, London 2008
(P) 2008 ACE
© 2008 NMC Recordings Ltd