John Casken (b. 15 July 1949) lives in Northumberland, not far from the English- Scottish Borders, within sight of the Cheviot Hills and within reach of the historic Northumbrian coast. The landscape, its changing colours, huge skies, and the poetry of this part of England have influenced his works and helped to create a strong sense of place, forming a thread throughout his music.
Orion Over Farne for orchestra (1984), the large-scale choral piece To Fields We Do Not Know, described as a Northumbrian elegy (1985), the orchestral song-cycle Still Mine (1992), the ensemble piece Winter Reels (2010) and the choral piece Uncertain Sea (2014) all draw inspiration from Northumberland and the northern hills. In 1990 Casken’s first opera Golem won the First Britten Award for Composition. In 1993 the Prince Pierre de Monaco Prize was awarded for Still Mine, and in 2009 The Dream of the Rood won the British Composer Award (Vocal Category). In 2015 Casken’s oboe concerto Apollinaire’s Bird was shortlisted for both an RPS Award and a British Composer Award.
John Casken studied at the University of Birmingham and at the Academy of Music in Warsaw, and from this time he formed a close association and friendship with Witold Lutosławski. John Casken was Composer-in Association with Northern Sinfonia from 1990 to 2001 and has worked with many of the UK’s major orchestras, including the Hallé, who premiered Madonna of Silence for trombone and orchestra in 2019. He has written for major artists such as Heinz Holliger, Heinrich Schiff, The Lindsays, Dmitry Sitkovetsky, Thomas Zehetmair, Sir Thomas Allen and Sir John Tomlinson, and his works have been performed at many major international festivals. He was a Lecturer at Birmingham and Durham universities and Professor of Music at the University of Manchester (1992–2008).