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.
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.
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The Triumph of Time is one of Birtwistle's most memorable images in sound: an immensely slow and baleful processional for vast orchestra, inspired by Breughel the Elder's engraving of the same name depicting Time as a remorseless destroyer. Birtwistle's 1992 opera Gawain was another of his large-scale treatments of the passing of time, and his orchestral paraphrase Gawain's Journey draws together music from various parts of the opera round its turning point of Gawain's journey northward from the court of King Arthur to fulfil his wager with the mysterious Green Knight. These two works are joined by a reissue of the London Sinfonietta's recording of Ritual Fragment, also released on NMC D009.
The Triumph of Time and Gawain's Journey were originally released on Collins Classics.
"It is good to have [these] excellent recordings of two of the composer's major orchestral works resurrected from their Collins Classics grave by the ever-welcome new-music specialist label NMC."
The Daily Telegraph 2004
Triumph of Time, Gawain's Journey
Recording date: January 1993
Recording venue: Blackheath Concert Halls, London
Engineer: Antony Howell
Producer: John H West
Recording date: 21 November 1991
Recording venue: Rosslyn Hill Chapel, Hampstead
Engineer: Tryggvi Tryggvason
Producers: Colin Matthews, Oliver Knussen
Editing & mastering: David Lefeber
Cover image: Photo: Malcolm Crowthers
Triumph of Time, Gawain's Journey (P) 1993 Lambourne Productions Ltd
Ritual Fragment (P) 1993 NMC Recordings Ltd