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GWYN PRITCHARD

Biography

Note: A brief biography suitable for concert programmes, publicity, etc is available here

 

Gwyn Pritchard was born in 1948.  He started composing at the age of twelve, and in 1966 entered the Royal Scottish Academy of Music where he studied the 'cello and composition.  During his student years he wrote a Viola Concerto, and other works which still receive regular performances, most notably Music for Doublebass & Harp (included on a portrait CD on the Sargasso label).  After a short period as Director of Music at Salisbury Cathedral School he worked as a freelance 'cellist in London, and was then employed by the BBC, firstly as an orchestral 'cellist, and later to be the subject of a documentary film Young Composer for which he was commissioned to write Spring Music

For a brief period he divided his time between composing and working as a ‘cellist, but in the late 1970s, after performances of Objects In Space and Mercurius at London's South Bank brought his work to the attention of a wider public, he decided to commit himself exclusively to composition and conducting. Since then much of Pritchard's compositional activity has been based outside the UK.

In 1979 Nephalauxis was performed at the Warsaw Autumn Festival.  This was the beginning of a fruitful musical relationship with many Polish musicians and festivals that was to develop over the following decade, culminating in his being a Featured Composer alongside Lutoslawski at the International New Music Week held in Southampton at which several of his works were performed, including the première by The Bournenouth Symphony Orchestra of the major orchestral piece La Settima Bolgia

In 1982 he founded Uroboros Ensemble which includes some of Britain's leading instrumentalists.  He has composed several pieces for the group, including Moondance, Lollay-Lollay, Chamber Concerto, Madrigal and more recently Features and Formations.  As their conductor he has performed and broadcast with them throughout Britain and abroad, and as their Artistic Director has commissioned several new works, and introduced much unfamiliar music from other countries to British and other audiences in Europe.

Since the early 1990s Pritchard has developed an ongoing association with leading instrumentalists based in Switzerland (mostly in Basel) for whom he has composed several substantial pieces: Janus, Wayang, Break Apart, Demise (which involved him for the first time in electronics), culminating in the 'cello concerto The Fruit of Chance and Necessity which was performed in Basel at the 2004 ISCM World New Music Days.  His lighthearted theatrical birthday tribute to the Basel Percussion Trio Das Mysterium der Heiligen Dreifatligket was incorporated into La Revue Burlesque by the famous Teatro Dimitri which toured in numerous countries in the late 1990s.  More recently the Basel Symphony Orchestra promoted a concert which, to celebrate Pritchard's sixtieth birthday, included two of his works, Conflux was toured extensively throughout Switzerland by the ensemble Quadriga, in 2015 the percussion ensemble Decibells commissioned a new work, and in 2016 Ensemble ? gave a substantial 'portrait' concert in Chur which included five of his works.  Pritchard has also conducted Swiss groups including The Basel Soloists touring Britain and Canada, and Ensemble Interplay in Italy.

Italy has also figured prominently in Pritchard's career.  In 2003 he founded the Reggello International Festival of Contemporary & Classical Music in Tuscany, and as Artistic Director invited ensembles and soloists from many parts of the world to participate, often programming music which is seldom heard in Italy.  He also directed the RIF Composers' Competition, hosted by the festival.  In 2008, to mark his sixtieth birthday, Pritchard was one of very few composers represented in a major concert series in Florence to celebrate Elliott Carter's hundredth birthday, and the same promoters have continued to include Pritchard's work in their summer concert series in subsequent years. Other significant performances in Italy include Nightfall, commissioned by Ex Novo Ensemble under Claudio Ambrosini and performed in Venice in 2011.

In recent years Pritchard has been the recipient of a considerable number of commissions and performances in Germany and Austria, including Song for Icarus, Ariel Dreaming, Colouring In and Gravity.  Since 2008 he has returned regularly to the Weimar Spring Days for Contemporary Music as composer, conductor and competition judge.  A special concert in Essen celebrated Pritchard’s sixtieth birthday by programming all his shorter works for piano, performed by Ian Pace.  His music has been represented regularly at many German concert series, including Musikfabrik in Cologne, and several festivals in Berlin, which is also the home of  Pritchard's main publisher, Verlag Neue Musik.  In November 2011 three 'portrait' concerts were given in the Austrian city of Salzburg by the Österreichisches Ensemble für Neue Musik (oenm); the piano trio Res was composed especially for the occasion and was later repeated at the Wien Modern festival.

Pritchard's music is performed around the world, and has been represented at major international festivals such as Warsaw Autumn, Wien Modern, Huddersfield, International New Music Week, ISCM World Music Days, Weimarer Frühjahrstage für zeitgenössische Musik, Daegu Contemporary Music Festival (S Korea), in Berlin at the Zepernicker Randspiele, Klangwerkstatt, Pyramidale and numerous others in Europe and beyond.  It has been performed in many European countries, in the USA, Canada, China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, and of course in Britain.  It has also been widely broadcast, often under his own direction, on many radio and television networks, including the BBC, who  commissioned The Firmament of Time in 2008 for performance by the BBC Symphony Orchestra.  Other international commissions in recent years have included Harmoniemusik for the Dutch group Orkest 'de ereprijs', In the Silence of Turned Earth for soprano and violin soloists with string orchestra for the Sofia Soloists in Bulgaria, Kommos for Ensemble Eclat of S Korea, and Nighfall for Ex Novo Ensemble of Venice.  

In 2013, along with his friend, composer Andrea Cavallari, Pritchard founded London Ear, a festival of contemporary music.  It has presented performers from many countries, and also included the world premieres of Pritchard's Three Songs of Mass and Motion and Evolution, performed by the London Sinfonietta. 

Pritchard is a professor of composition at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London.  As a teacher and lecturer he has been invited to many academic institutions, including The Royal Academy of Music, The Birmingham Conservatoire, The Basle Conservatoire, The Eastman School of Music and several universities in Britain and American.  He has also taught composition extensively to private students and in workshops in Britain and abroad.  He has written, introduced and participated in programmes for BBC Radio 3, and has contributed articles and reviews to a variety of musical publications.

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