© Andrzej Urbaniak
Brief Biography: Shortly after graduating from the Royal Northern College of Music, Simon Holt was firmly established on the new music circuit with a series of commissions and fruitful collaborations with the London Sinfonietta and the Nash Ensemble. Influenced by Messiaen, Xenakis and Feldman as well as visual artists such as Goya, Giacometti and Brancusi, his music is complex, dramatic and often enigmatic. The intricate internal structures of his works are concealed by a seemingly impulsive nature. During the 1980s he worked primarily in complex soundworlds, while since the 1990s the dense textures have often been offset by Feldmanesque moments of calm, that Holt refers to as ‘still centres’. The music of Simon Holt is published exclusively by Chester Music Limited.
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|Key Works: |
(1986; voice, ensemble)
- The Nightingale’s to Blame (1998; opera)
- Who put Bella in the Wych elm? (2002; music theatre)
- witness to a snow miracle
(2005; violin concerto)
- Sueños (2006; baritone, ensemble)
- a table of noises (2008; percussion concerto)
- Troubled Light
- Centauromachy - Double Concerto for Clarinet and Flugelhorn (2009; soloists and orchestra)
|Career Highlights: |
- 1978-82 studies at the Royal Northern College of Music with Anthony Gilbert
- 1985 comes to prominence as featured composer at the Bath Festival
- 1989 Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Capriccio Spettrale
- 1998 featured composer at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival
- 2001 Le Prix de la Fondation Prince Pierre, Monaco for Sunrise’ yellow noise
- 2002 Ivor Novello Music Award for Boots of Lead
- 2004 British Composer Award for Who put Bella in the Wych elm?
- 2007 premiere of witness to a snow miracle in London with BBC Symphony Orchestra
- 2008 premiere of a table of noises for percussion and orchestra; appointed Composer-in-Association with BBC National Orchestra of Wales; premiere of Troubled Light, BBC Proms
- 2009 world premiere of St Vitus in the Kettle commissioned for the opening of Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff, Wales, and performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Thierry Fischer
- 2009 British Composer Award for a table of noises
Critical Acclaim: (a table of noises) Holt has produced one of his most likeable and subtly coloured scores. — Paul Driver, The Sunday Times …this is one of the most delicately crafted new concertos I have heard in years. — Anna Picard, The Independent on Sunday The way he deploys instrumental timbres and creates mixes of sound conjures up, with his customary imagination, a compact score that is at once multi-faceted, ear-catching and clearly focused. — Geoffrey Norris, The Daily Telegraph
Simon Holt was born in Bolton, Lancashire in 1958. After completing a foundation course at Bolton Art College, he went on to study composition with Anthony Gilbert at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. He is a Fellow of the Royal Northern College of Music and of the University of Bolton. As a young composer, the late Michael Vyner, then artistic director of the London Sinfonietta, commissioned Kites (1983). In 1985 he was featured composer of the Bath International Festival at which the late William Mann was the artistic director. Holt's relationship with the London Sinfonietta has continued with a steady stream of performances and premieres, including Ballad of the Black Sorrow (1988), eco-pavan (1998) and his most recent large-scale piece: Sueños (2006) for baritone and ensemble, performed by Roderick Williams and the London Sinfonietta conducted by Thierry Fischer in London and Madrid.
Simon Holt's output for the chamber ensemble is large, including eight pieces written for the Nash Ensemble. The first four of these: Shadow Realm (1983), Era madrugada (1984), Canciones (1986) and Sparrow Night (1989) have been recorded by the Nash ensemble on the NMC label. After the fifth piece, all fall down, a sixth was commissioned for the 2004 Cheltenham Festival, namely the other side of silence. Then came the string trio, 4 quarters, and recently, String Sextet: the torturer's horse premiered at the Wigmore Hall in 2011. More recently, Holt has developed a hugely successful relationship with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, who recorded a second portrait CD on the NMC label, released in 2004, featuring Kites (1983), Lilith (1990), eco-pavan (1998), Boots of Lead (2002) and feet of clay (2003).
To date, Holt has been commissioned to write three major orchestral pieces for the BBC Proms - in 1987, John Drummond commissioned Syrensong for the BBC Symphony Orchestra, later followed by the viola concerto Walking with the River's Roar, premiered by Nobuko Imai and the BBC Philharmonic in 1992. Latterly, Troubled Light for the BBC NOW in 2008.
Simon Holt has found inspiration in, amongst other things, the world of Greek myth. His Icarus Trilogy culminated in 1995 with the premiere of his cello concerto Daedalus Remembers, commissioned by the Cheltenham festival for Rohan de Saram and Sinfonia 21 conducted by Daniel Harding. In addition, he feels a great affinity for the writing of Federico Garcia Lorca whose dark, passionate and enigmatic texts have much in common with Holt's own sound world. He has set Lorca's texts in his song cycle Canciones and his first opera The Nightingale's to Blame. This was a commission from Opera North, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, and the Munich Biennale, and the premiere formed the focal point of a major retrospective at the 1998 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. Simon Holt's soprano and orchestra piece, Sunrise' yellow noise (2000) for the city of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Lisa Milne under Sir Simon Rattle went on to tour the Cologne Triennale in May 2000, and was the subject of a one-hour South Bank Show TV documentary. In 2001, Simon Holt received Le Prix de la Fondation Prince Pierre, Monaco for this piece.
Sunrise' yellow noise is the first part of the cycle, a ribbon of time, which encompasses five works of various genre based on poems by Emily Dickinson. The other four pieces are Two Movements for string quartet (2001), which received the Royal Philharmonic Society Award in 2002; Boots of Lead (2002) for alto and ensemble, which was premiered by BCMG, Rinat Shaham and Sir Simon Rattle in October 2002 and received the Ivor Novello Classical Music Award; Clandestiny (2000) for soprano and organ; and startled Grass (2001) for female voices and cello. The music theatre piece, Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm?, commissioned by Almeida Aldeburgh Opera, was performed around the UK in 2003 to great acclaim and judged Best Stage Work at the 2004 British Composer Awards. It led to a number of 'spin off' pieces - The Coroner's Report (2004) for ensemble, the other side of silence (2004) for flute, viola and harp, and The sharp end of night (2005) for solo violin.
Holt's recent large-scale pieces include the violin concerto, witness to a snow miracle, performed in London and Bonn by Vivianne Hager and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and judged Best Orchestral Work at the 2006 British Composer Awards; and a percussion concerto for Colin Currie entitled a table of noises, which was premiered by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in May 2008 and also won the Orchestral Award at the British Composer Awards (2009). Troubled Light was premiered at the BBC Proms also in 2008, with Thierry Fischer conducting the BBC NOW.
Simon currently holds the position of Composer in Association at BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
The music of Simon Holt is published exclusively by Chester Music Limited.