A composer of music of “high drama” and “intense emotion” (BBC), “at once, ingenious, hypnotic, brave, and beautiful” (Festival Internazionale A.F. Lavagnino), Eugene Birman (b. 1987) has written for symphony orchestras (London Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra), choirs (BBC Singers, Latvian Radio Choir, Eric Ericsons Kammarkör), and leading ensembles and soloists (Maxim Vengerov, Maurizio Ben Omar, etc.) across four continents in venues ranging from London’s Southbank Centre to Carnegie Hall to above the Arctic Circle. His highly public career, with appearances on CNN, BBC World TV, Radio France, Deutsche Welle, and others, is characterized by a fearless focus on socially relevant large-scale compositions covering the financial crisis, Russian border treaties, and more. Commissioners and partners for Birman’s work extend beyond the concert hall to major international bodies such as the European Union, the Austrian Foreign Ministry, and the Hong Kong SAR, as well as through prominent fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation (2018) and the US Department of State’s Fulbright Program (2010-11). Most recently, he was awarded the 2017 Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize, leading to a season-long residency at the Southbank Centre and world premiere with the Philharmonia Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall, and appointed the sole Artist-in-Residence of the 2018 Helsinki Festival, Finland’s biggest yearly cultural event.
“Animalistic” (Eesti Kuulturileht “SIRP”), “skirting the boundary of pleasure and pain” (British Music Collection), Birman’s music draws inspiration and impetus from his own, seemingly irreconcilable, strands of life experience. Inspired by such disparate elements as Korean folk song and watercolor painting, and the musical language of his native Baltic region, his music displays a sinuous integration of potential energy and color, of wild, jarring unpredictability, often from note to note. The resulting works, encompassing ambitious choral music that has pioneered new techniques for the voice to a recently completed violin concerto that demands more from both the soloist and orchestra than perhaps any before it, is diverse, impossible to predict, obsessive in its impenetrability and originality. Trained in economics alongside music, he has contributed to published scholarly research from Columbia University Business School, developed his own model of elasticity of trade sanctions as part of his undergraduate thesis, and founded a food tech start-up in Estonia, where he continues to serve on the Board of Directors; he is perhaps the only living composer to be cited by Steve Forbes for his work in both economics and music, and has taught in both fields at the University of Oxford.
Upcoming premieres with Theatre of Voices (DK), Orquestra Gulbenkian (PT), Bayerische Theaterakakademie August Everding (DE), Ensamble Aural (AR), Ruthless Jabiru (UK) as part of a Sound and Music Portfolio residency, and saxophone virtuoso Guido de Flaviis (GR/IT) are only a small selection from the composer’s “booming career” (Festival van Vlaanderen). The 2018-19 season has already seen performances and recordings by the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra at the Great Hall of the St Petersburg Philharmonia and the ContempoArtEnsemble in Florence, Italy. Now based primarily in Hong Kong, Birman began composing at the age of three in Moscow at the Gnessin School, and continued his studies privately in the United States with John Adams; he has since worked closely under Samuel Adler, Luis Bacalov, David Conte, Azio Corghi, Christopher Rouse, Toivo Tulev, and, most recently, Salvatore Sciarrino. He was awarded a D.Phil from the University of Oxford, Christ Church, under the generous support of the Stone-Mallabar Foundation and the American Friends of Christ Church and graduated with an M.M. degree from the Juilliard School, where he was awarded the A. Ellstein Memorial Scholarship, the Rodgers and Hammerstein Scholarship, and the Gretchaninoff Prize. He received a B.A. in Economics from Columbia University, as well as a Diploma di Merito from the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy. Eugene Birman currently holds the position of Research Assistant Professor at Hong Kong Baptist University.