Friday, 7 December 2012

Jonathan Harvey

Jonathan Harvey, who died this week at the age of 73, was one of those quiet souls who become eminent without you quite noticing. He studied at St. John's College, Cambridge, and was advised by Britten to take lessons with Erwin Stein. (Stein, formerly Schoenberg's assistant, was an editor for Boosey and Hawkes where he worked with Britten). But Harvey's influences developed quite widely; on a Harkness Scholarship at Princeton, Harvey would meet Milton Babbitt, he discovered Stockhausen and was invited by Pierre Boulez to work at IRCAM.

Harvey wrote a monograph on Stockhausen in 1975 and would be influenced by the composer's dictum that melody, rhythm, harmony and tone colour were all aspects of vibration. Another influence, which emphasised this one-ness, was Buddhism. His music developed a meditative element and also an incandescence; his was a powerfully original musical imagination.

He wrote three operas, of which Inquest of Love was premiered by ENO in 1993 and Wagner Dream by Netherlands opera in 2007 going on to receive a semi-staging at the Barbican earlier this year (see my blog post). WNO will be performing Wagner Dream as part of their Summer 2013 season.

His anthem, Remember O Lord, was performed at the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Coronation, at Westminster Abbey. He continued working and produced three works in 2012. His last major work was Weltehos, for chorus and orchestra celebrating a multiplicity of religions, which the Berlin Philharmonic premiered last year.


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