Jonathan Dean Harvey was a British composer most famous for his works combining live instruments with electronics.
Harvey was born in Sutton Coldfield in 1939, and studied at St John’s College, Cambridge, where he obtained a PhD.
Harvey’s works are now in constant demand from a host of international organisations, and his music is extensively played and toured by major ensembles.
He held honorary doctorates from the universities of Southampton, Sussex, Bristol, Birmingham and Huddersfield, was a Member of Academia Europaea, and in 1993 was awarded the prestigious Britten Award for composition.
In 2009 he received several awards for his music, including the prestigious Prince Pierre of Monaco Prize in Musical Composition for his orchestral work Speakings, and the Charles Cros Grand Prix du Président for a lifetime’s work, becoming the first British composer ever to receive this coveted honour since its inception in 1970.
In the 1980s Harvey was invited to work at IRCAM (the Paris-based institute for research into music and sound) by its then director, the composer and conductor. Pierre Boulez. There, he produced works such as Speakings, a composition for large orchestra and electronics, in collaboration with sound artist and composer Gilbert Nouno. Another work, the Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco (1980) for eight track tape is notable for demonstrating that IRCAM’s apparently esoteric research programme could yield music capable of appealing to a wider audience.
He has composed for orchestra, chamber, solo instruments and many widely performed unaccompanied works for choir – as well as a large-scale cantata for the BBC Proms in 2000: Mothers shall not Cry.
His church opera Passion and Resurrection (1981), the subject of a BBC television film, received over twenty subsequent performances and his third and final opera, Wagner’s Dream, commissioned by Nederlandse Oper and realized at IRCAM, was premiered in 2007.
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