Butler, Martin


Martin Butler was born in 1960 and studied at the University of Manchester, the Royal Northern College of Music, and Princeton University, USA. From September 1998 to July 1999 Butler was Composer-in-Residence at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton in the United States.  He is currently Professor of Music at the University of Sussex.

Butler’s works are widely performed and broadcast both in the UK and abroad.  He has received commissions from, amongst others, the BBC (O Rio was first performed at the 1991 Proms), the London Sinfonietta (Concertino and Jazz Machines, of which the latter was played at the 1995 Venice Biennale), the Schubert Ensemble (American Rounds and Sequena Notturna) and the Brighton, Cheltenham, Canterbury, Norfolk & Norwich, and Presteigne festivals.  In June 1994 Mecklenburgh Opera premiered the operatic adventure story Craig's Progress, which was adapted for radio broadcast by BBC Radio 3.  His chamber opera A Better Place was premiered by ENO at the Coliseum in London in July 2001, conducted by Paul Daniel, and Two Rivers for choir and orchestra was premiered by the Oxford Bach Choir and The Britten Sinfonia in December 2001. Sentinels for string quartet and viola was premiered by the Brodsky Quartet and John Metcalfe at the 2006 Brighton Festival, and William Howard gave the premiere of Funérailles, a substantial new work for piano, at the 2006 Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

From 2006-8 Butler was the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra's first ever 'Composer in Focus'. The orchestra performed several large scale works during this period and his tenure culminated in two major performances of a new commission for the orchestra, From the Fairground of Dreams in January and March 2008 at Brighton Dome Concert Hall, conducted by Barry Wordsworth. In October 2008 Butler’s work for solo horn, Hunding, was the first music to be heard at the opening weekend of the new Kings Place concert hall in London. During 2009, his Concerto for Soprano Saxophone and Strings was premiered by Amy Dickson at the Presteigne Festival of Music and the Arts. 

Butler’s substantial nonet, Rondes d’automnes was premiered at the Cheltenham Music Festival by the New London Chamber Ensemble in 2011 and was shortlisted for a RPS Award. The ensemble subsequently premiered two Mozart arrangements by Butler at the Wigmore Hall the same year.

Butler is pianist with the innovative improvising group, notes inegales and co-director of Club Inegales in London.

Image Credit: 
Katie Vandyck

New London Chamber Ensemble

New London Chamber Ensemble

For over a decade the New London Chamber Ensemble has challenged traditional ideas of chamber music with innovative programmes combining classic repertoire with semi-staged works. Their passion for education is encapsulated by their role as ‘Ensemble in Residence’ to the National Youth Chamber Orchestra.

Concert highlights include collaborating with pianist Angela Hewitt at the Trasimeno Festival (Perugia) and Wigmore Hall, the Two Moors Festival performing Walton’s Façade with Prunella Scales and Timothy West, collaborating with the Dante Quartet at the Swaledale Festival and Wigmore Hall, The Forge in London with pianist Michael Dussek, Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals at the Leeds International Concert Season, King’s Place with Martin Butler, and premieres at the Cheltenham Festival.

The NLCE is passionately dedicated to new music, and regularly commissions new works, including Martin Burtler’s Rondes d’Automne. 

Image Credit: 

Navarra String Quartet

Navarra String Quartet

Magnus Johnston violin
Marije Ploemacher violin
Simone van der Giessen viola
Brian O'Kane cello

Formed in 2002 at the Royal Northern College of Music under the guidance of the late Dr Christopher Rowland and Alasdair Tait, and postgraduate students of the Alban Berg Quartet in Cologne, they are now Quartet in Association at the RNCM.  In 2005 1st Prize in the Florence International Competition, and in 2007 2nd Prize at the Melbourne International Competition. They were selected for representation by Young Concert Artists Trust in 2006 and in 2007 received a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship.

In 2009 they took part in the Haydn series at Wigmore Hall (broadcast by BBC Radio 3) and recorded Haydn’s Seven Last Words on the Cross for Altara Records.  They also worked with Wayne MacGregor’s Random Dance Company on a new work, Entity, with music by Joby Talbot, giving a series of performances at Sadler’s Wells, Snape Maltings and the Muziektheater in Amsterdam.

Over the last two years the Quartet has developed its international profile, appearing at major festivals and venues throughout Europe including the Konzerthaus in Berlin, the Schwetzinger, Rheingau and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festivals in Germany, the Aix-en-Provence and Bellerive Festivals and the Kattegat and Sandviken Festivals in Sweden.  Further afield they have given concerts in Russia, the USA and Bahrain.

They have taken part in the International Musicians Seminar at Prussia Cove and in 2008 were resident Quartet at the Britten-Pears School in Aldeburgh and at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland.  The Quartet has broadcast for BBC Radio 3, RAI 3 (Italy), Radio 4 (Holland), SWR (Germany), Radio Luxembourg and ABC Classic FM (Australia).

Callow, Simon

Simon Callow was born in 1949 in London. He lived in Africa for three years, studied at the London Oratory School on his return and subsequently spent a year at Queen’s University Belfast, from which he ran away to become an actor. He has been very closely involved in music, working with orchestras (LPO, LSO, LMP, Philharmonia, Glyndebourne) and with instrumentalists and singers (Carole Farley, Steven Isserlis, Steven Hough). He has recorded works by Schönberg, Rawsthorne, and Hallgrimsson, and been involved in the premieres of pieces by Jonathan Dove, Roxanna Panufnik and Per Norgaard.


Martin Butler - Dirty Beasts

Martin Butler - Dirty Beasts
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Simon Callow narrator
New London Chamber Ensemble
Leon Bosch
double bass
members of the Navarra String Quartet
Martin Butler piano


"It's true!" I cried. "I swear it, mummy! There is a person in my tummy!" The Tummy Beast

The title track Dirty Beasts, for speaker, piano, and wind quintet, is a deliciously gruesome but immediately accessible work which sets three verses from Roald Dahl's hilarious collection of poems. Narrator Simon Callow brings to life the stories of the Crocodile, Tummy Beast and Pig with a variety of gloriously ebullient regional accents, while Martin Butler's playfully evocative music is wonderfully realised by the New London Chamber Ensemble.

Martin's music is lyrical and strongly infl uenced by dance form, rhythms, jazz and improvisation. Rondes d'Automne for small ensemble explores the playing styles, textures and modal harmonies of American folk music. Fall for flute and piano and Lovesongs Waltzes for clarinet and piano have hints of delicate jazz and dance rhythms.

Composer-pianist Martin Butler performs two solo works on this album: Rumba Machine – a virtuosic fanfare-like piece – and Prelude Inégales, exploring ways in which material that has its roots in improvisation can be captured and worked on in more formal and strategic compositional ways.


'Butler's clever settings give the poems the right gruesome undertow without being too obviously literal ... there's an understated craft to Butler's writing that draws you in' The Times

"An eloquent showcase of Butler's chamber music" BBC Radio 3 'Record Review'

'The hypnotic Preludes Inegales and the aching simplicity of Down-Hollow Winds ...The best release so far from NMC in 2016? Just possibly' Shock of the New

'NMC provides expert sound and erudite accompanying notes...the music has such immediacy, charm and fluency' Gramophone

'Roald Dahl’s verses are spoken with brilliant irony, crisp diction and delicious timing by Simon Callow…Butler’s music provides vital energy and a delicate tracery of instrumental texture.' Double Reed News


Catalogue number:
NMC D212
Release Date:
22 April 2016