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Julian Anderson

Julian Anderson is among the most esteemed and influential composers of his generation, with regular performances both internationally and at home in the UK. Anderson was born in London in 1967, taught himself at a young age to read orchestral scores and compose, and later studied formally with John Lambert, Alexander Goehr and Tristan Murail. He was awarded a prestigious RPS Composition Prize in 1992 at the age of 25 for his two movement work Diptych (1990) for orchestra, launching his career. His success as composer has also fed a prominent academic career, which has included Senior Composition Professorships at the Royal College of Music (1996-2004, where he was also Head of Composition for 5 years), Harvard University (2004-7), and Guildhall School of Music & Drama where he holds the specially created post of Professor of Composition and Composer in Residence. Anderson is also much in demand as concert programmer and public speaker. Between 2002 and 2011 he was Artistic Director of the Phiharmonia’s Music of Today concert series at the Royal Festival Hall, London, and from 2013 to 2016 he was Composer in Residence at Wigmore Hall.

Alongside his impressive catalogue of instrumental works is a trove of choral music for which Anderson is particularly known. Four American Choruses (2003) was premiered by the Groot Omroepkoor at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. His 2006 oratorio, Heaven is Shy of Earth (rev. 2009) was premiered at the BBC Proms by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, and went on to win a 2007 BASCA award for Choral Composition. Alleluia (2007) for choir and orchestra opened the first season of the refurbished Southbank Centre in London, premiered by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus.

“I never thought, ‘I’ll be a composer’... It was something that just happened. I actually had an illusion that if you were to write music, you had to physically be able to play all the instruments in the orchestra. There was a lot of amateur music in the family and I listened a lot to the radio which was mostly classical music. My parents also had a very big record collection so I knew a lot of standard repertoire before I started composing. I started to play the piano when I was about 8, and when I was 10 I began learning to read full scores – I started to compose around the same time. I was entirely self-taught in the beginning. When I did begin formal study, I had consultations with Oliver Knussen and later I studied with John Lambert and Alexander Goehr.
— Julian Anderson
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This commission has been generously supported by Michael Straus in honour of Philippa Straus.

Magnificat is a tribute to the unaccompanied motets of favourite composers from several eras– in particular those of Dufay, the Eton Choirbook, Robert Carver, Lassus and Bach. The work is therefore full of contrast in texture, harmony, mood and pacing, and exploits the resources of unaccompanied chorus in a manner not only analogous to those already mentioned but also to ensemble or orchestral writing. Naturally– given the sentiments of the text– the mood is predominantly joyful and exuberant; but the darker implications of certain phrases in the text are not ignored. Towards the end there is a big choral explosion on one of the traditional plainsong chants for the Magnificat, before the work subsides into a coda of calm serenity. Magnificat was commissioned by the ORA choir. It is dedicated to the French composer Betsy Jolas, in celebration of her 90th birthday, and in equal celebration of our mutual love of many choral composers mentioned above.

WORLD PREMIERE: 22nd February 2018, #Renaissance- Majesty, Manchester Cathedral.