International Composers Series

A series of talks by leading international composers, linked to performances of their work in the UK.

Organised by Dr Paul Archbold, in collaboration with Contemporary Music Research Unit Goldsmiths, Guildhall School, Kings College London, Institute of Modern Languages Research School of Advanced Study, Royal Northern College of Music, University of Huddersfield, Royal Holloway University of London, in association with Royal Opera House, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, London Sinfonietta and Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.

Forthcoming events


Brian Ferneyhough 

in conversation with Julian Anderson

Talk: Thursday 29 November 2018, 18:00

Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House,  Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Admission free. 

Promoted by Institute of Musical Research with the support of the Hepner Foundation.

The Institute of Musical Research celebrates Brian Ferneyhough’s seventy-fifth birthday with a talk with the composer Julian Anderson. Brian Ferneyhough (b.1943) is widely recognized as one of today’s foremost living composers. Since the mid-1970s, when he first gained widespread international recognition, his music has earned him an enviable reputation as one of the most influential creative personalities and significant musical thinkers on the contemporary scene.

His works include the opera Shadowtime, the orchestral works Plötzlichkeit, La Terre est un homme and Transit, six numbered string quartets and several smaller works for the ensemble, concertos for solo instrument and chamber ensemble including La chûte d’Icare, Incipits and Terrain, and many virtuosic solo works. His recent cycle of works, Umbrations, was premiered in Frankfurt: one of these works, Christus Resurgens, will receive its London première at Wigmore Hall on Monday 26 November.

Julian Anderson (b.1967) is one the leading composers of his generation, with commissions and performances throughout the UK, Europe, Asia and the United States.  His opera Thebans was premiered at ENO in 2014, and he has recently composed string quartets for the Arditti and JACK.  The BBC featured a ‘Total Immersion’ day of his music in 2017, and he holds the post of Professor of Composition and Composer in Residence at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

A series of talks by leading international composers, linked to performances of their work in the UK. Organised by Dr Paul Archbold, in collaboration with Contemporary Music Research Unit Goldsmiths, Guildhall School, Kings College London, Institute of Modern Languages Research School of Advanced Study University of London, and Royal Holloway University of London, in association with BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Sinfonietta,  Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival and Wigmore Hall.

Concert: Monday 26 November 2018, 19:30 

Arditti Quartet perform Christus Resurgens and Third String Quartet

Wigmore Hall, Wigmore Street, London

Tickets: £40, £35, £30, £25, £18 (under 35s £5)

promoted by Wigmore Hall

Autumn 2017


Sir Harrison Birtwistle

in conversation with Julian Anderson

Download e-flyer here

Talk: Thursday 12 October 2017, 18:00

Macmillan Hall, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Admission free. Tickets:

promoted by School of Advanced Study, University of London

Concert: Friday 13 October at 19:30

BBC Symphony Orchestra perform Earth Dances

Barbican Hall, Silk Street, London


promoted by BBC Symphony Orchestra

Sir Harrison Birtwistle CH is one of the leading European figures in contemporary music. In 1965 he sold his clarinets to devote all his efforts to composition, and travelled to Princeton as a Harkness Fellow where he completed the opera Punch and Judy. This work, together with Verses for Ensembles and The Triumph of Time, firmly established Birtwistle as a leading voice in British music.

Works premiered in the past decade include his music theatre work The Corridor which opened the Aldeburgh Festival and toured to the Southbank Centre and the Bregenz Festival, with further performances in New York and Amsterdam. Birtwistle’s Violin Concerto for Christian Tetzla was premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2011, followed by performances at the BBC Proms, Tokyo Composium and Salzburg Festival. Birtwistle’s 80th birthday year in 2014 saw the premiere of Responses for piano and orchestra, touring internationally with Pierre-Laurent Aimard as soloist, and 2015 brought a new music theatre work The Cure performed in a double-bill with The Corridor at the Aldeburgh Festival and the Royal Opera House in London. Deep Time for orchestra, commissioned by the Berlin Staatsoper and BBC Radio 3 received its first performances in 2017 conducted by Daniel Barenboim.

Birtwistle has received many honours, including a Grawemeyer Award in 1987 and the Ernst von Siemens Prize in 1995; he was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1986, awarded a British knighthood in 1988 and made a Companion of Honour in 2001. He was Henry Purcell Professor of Music at King’s College, University of London (1995-2001) and is currently a Visiting Professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Reprinted by kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes


Esa-Pekka Salonen

in conversation with Richard Baker

Talk: Thursday 23 November 2017, 11:00

Silk Street Music Hall, Guildhall School

Admission free. Tickets

promoted by Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Concert: Sunday 10 December (events at 11.00, 13:00, 15:00, 19:30)

Total Immersion: Esa-Pekka Salonen

BBC Symphony Orchestra at Barbican Hall, Silk Street, London


promoted by BBC Symphony Orchestra


Anders Hillborg

in conversation with Paul Archbold

Talk: Tuesday 28 November 2015, 18:30

Senate Room, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Admission free

Concert: Wednesday 29 November, 19:30

BBC Symphony Orchestra perform Violin Concerto no. 2

Barbican Hall, Silk Street, London


promoted by BBC Symphony Orchestra

One of Sweden’s leading composers, Anders Hillborg is that rare artist whose music strikes a chord across many different countries and cultures. Born in Sweden in 1954, an early interest in electronic music developed from a beginning as a keyboard improviser in a pop band, but contact with Ferneyhough, and the music of Ligeti quickly led to a fascination with counterpoint and orchestral writing. Since then, Hillborg’s love of pure sound and the energy that he gives it, has appealed to many major conductors including Alan Gilbert, Sakari Oramo, Kent Nagano, and Gustavo Dudamel.

With each passing year, Hillborg’s international reputation grows apace. His music has twice been the subject of a Royal Stockholm Philharmonic’s Composer Festival (1999, 2014) and he has also enjoyed residencies at Soundstreams, Toronto (2003), Avanti! (1995, 2005), Aspen (2008) and most recently in Hamburg (where he is Composer in Residence with the NDR). An extensive discography (at least 24 recordings) includes four portrait discs on BIS. Recently recorded by Decca, Hillborg’s song cycle for Renée Fleming, The Strand Settings, received a rapturous reception in London, whilst the UK premiere of Beast Sampler at the 2015 BBC Proms led The Times to pronounce: ‘Spectralism writ large: more please’. In recognition of his music’s extraordinary international reach, Hillborg was awarded the Swedish Government’s 2015 Music Export Prize, an accolade more usually reserved for Pop and Rock artists.

Past events

Spring 2017

Detlev Glanert

in conversation with Paul Archbold

Thursday 2 March 2017, 18:15
Room G34
Senate House, Malet Street
London WC1E 7HU
Admission free

Detlev Glanert is currently the most frequently performed opera composer in Germany. His opera, orchestra and chamber music is characterised by an especially lyrical musical language and an affinity with the Romantic tradition, newly explored from a contemporary point of view. He studied composition under Diether de la Motte, Hans Werner Henze and Oliver Knussen and spent a total of ten years in Italy, where he worked as artistic director of the Istituto di Musica and the Cantiere Internazionale d’Arte in Montepulciano for five and three years respectively. In 1992/93 he held a fellowship of the German Academy Villa Massimo in Rome,  and in 2003 was composer-in-residence at Mannheim National Theatre as well as at the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo in 2005. He has given lectures and taught composition classes in various cities, including Aspen, Genoa, Montepulciano, Melbourne, Jakarta and Sapporo. So far he has written three symphonies, solo concertos for piano, piano duo, violin and tuba, as well as numerous orchestral and chamber works. His ten stage works have seen many productions around the world and received prestigious awards. From 2011 until 2017, he was house composer of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam.

BBC Symphony Orchestra will perform Detlev Glanert’s Megaris at the Barbican Hall, London on Friday 3 March at 19:30.

Tickets: 14-25 Young Barbican Tickets £5 (full price £10-£34).

Tel: 020 7638 8891

E-flyer available here.


Winter 2016

Hans Abrahamsen

in conversation with Prof. Julian Anderson

Monday 5 December 2016, 19:00

Lecture Recital Room, Guildhall School (Silk Street building), London EC2Y 8DT

Admission free

E-flyer available here.

In a creative life of almost half a century, Hans Abrahamsen has more than once had the courage to stop, and the equal courage to start again – freshly, out of a clear reconsideration of where he was before. His allegiances are shown by the roll of composers whose works he has, as a master orchestrator, reconceived: Bach and Ligeti, Nielsen and Schumann, Schoenberg and Debussy. But he has long discovered his own terrain – quite often a snowscape, as in his early masterpiece Winternacht or the work in which he found his fully mature style, Schnee (2006-8), generally acknowledged one of the rare classics of the twenty-first century.

Besides these two pieces for instrumental ensemble, his output includes four string quartets, a collection of ten piano studies (some of which he has recomposed in other forms), concertos for piano, for piano and violin, and for piano left hand, and a monodrama for soprano and orchestra, let me tell you. He is currently at work on his first opera, after Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.

© Paul Griffiths

London Sinfonietta will perform Hans Abrahamsen’s Schnee at St John’s Smith Square, London on Tuesday 6 December at 19:30.

Tickets: Concession price £5 (full price £15). Tel: 020 7960 4200


Autumn 2016

Beat Furrer

in conversation with Dr Edward Nesbit

Tuesday 8 November 2016, 18:15

Room 349, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Admission free

Beat Furrer was born in Schaffhausen (Switzerland) in 1954 and received his first musical training on piano at the Music School there. After moving to Vienna in 1975, he studied conducting with Otmar Suitner and composition with Roman Haubenstock Ramati at the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst. In 1985 he founded the Klangforum Wien, which he directed until 1992, and with which he is still associated as conductor. Commissioned by the Vienna State Opera, he composed his first opera Die Blinden. His second opera Narcissus was premiered in 1994 as part of the Festival “steirischer herbst” at the Graz Opera. In 1996 he was composer-in-residence at the Lucerne Festival. His music theatre work Begehren was premiered in Graz in 2001, the opera invocation in Zürich in 2003 and the sound theatre piece FAMA in Donaueschingen in 2005. In autumn 1991 Furrer became a full professor of composition at the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Graz. He has been guest professor in composition at the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Frankfurt 2006–2009. Together with violinist Ernst Kovacic he founded “impuls”, a International Ensemble and Composers Academy for Contemporary Music. In 2004 he was awarded the Music Prize of the City of Vienna, and in 2005 became a member of the Academy of Arts in Berlin. He was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2006 for his work FAMA. In 2010 his music theatre Wüstenbuch was premiered in Basel. In 2014 he was awarded with Great Austrian State Prize. His latest opera La Bianca Notte based on texts by Dino Campana, was premiered in Hamburg in spring 2015. He is currently working on his new opera Violetter Schnee (Violet Snow) based on a Libretto by Vladimir Sorokin. Since the 1980s Beat Furrer has composed a wide range of works, from solo and ensemble music to orchestral and choral works and opera. He is well known for his nuanced exploration of the human voice and its relationship to instrumental sound.

London Sinfonietta will perform Furrer’s FAMA at St John’s Smith Square, London on Friday 11 November at 19:30.

Tickets: Concession price £5. Tel: 020 7960 4200

A further performance of FAMA will take place at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival on Sunday 20 November at 22:00.

Spring 2016

Michel van der Aa

Music Hall, Guildhall School, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DT

Monday 22 February 2016, 19:00 NOTE TIME

Michel van der Aa is one of the most outstanding Dutch composers of his generation. His music has expressive power and an idiomatic sense for the stage, combining sounds and scenic images in a play of changing perspectives.

Michael Van der Aa’s The Book of Disquiet transforms Fernando Pessoa’s collection of dream vignettes and autobiographical anecdotes into a hypnotic work that mixes spoken word, performed by Samuel West, with music, electronics and video, probing the true nature of the ever-elusive self.

Performances by the London Sinfonietta at The Coronet Theatre:

         24 | 25 | February 2016 at 19:30

For concert tickets and details please see:


Louis Andriessen

In conversation with Julian Anderson

Lecture Recital Room, Guildhall School, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DT

Wednesday 10 February 2016, 20:00 NOTE TIME

Limited Capacity. Please reserve a place by email to

Louis Andriessen is now widely regarded as the leading composer working in the Netherlands today and is a central figure in the international new music scene. He held the Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair at Carnegie Hall, New York, and was awarded Composer of the Year Award by Musical America in 2010. He won the 2011 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for his opera La Commedia, which was released on CD and DVD by Nonesuch in 2014.

Performances at the Barbican Centre, London:

  • 9 February 2016 at 19:30 -- Britten Sinfonia: La Passione

  • 12 February 2016 at 19:30 -- BBC Symphony Orchestra: La Commedia

  • 13th February 2016, from 13:00 -- Total Immersion: Louis Andriessen

    • 13:00 -- Guildhall New Music Ensemble: Hout, Zilver, De Volharding

    • 15:00 -- Britten Sinfonia: ...miserere... , Dances

    • 20:00 -- BBC Symphony Orchestra: De Stijl, Rosa’s Horses, Mysterien

For concert tickets and details please see:


Anna Clyne

Wednesday 20 January, 5pm

Court Room, Senate House, London WC1E 7HU


Georg Friedrich Haas

Promoted by The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Thursday 5 November 2015, 7.30pm

ROH Insight event, Clore Studio Upstairs, Royal Opera House

Tickets £17 (students £7)

Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas is a leading figure in European contemporary music. The soundworld he creates is one of microtones and shimmering, nocturnal shadows.

Morgen und Abend World Première production at Royal Opera House, London. Georg Friedrich Haas’s new commission for The Royal Opera, Morning and Evening, is based on a novel by Jon Fosse and directed by Graham Vick.

Performances at Royal Opera House:

13 | 17 | 21 | 25 November 2015 at 7.30pm, 28 November at 7pm


George Lewis

Tuesday 24 November 2015, 17:00

Room 349, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Admission free

Composition as Ethnography

This talk places pressure on the border separating creative work from academic research, through an examination of a number of cases from my own work as a composer and interactive artist. The works I discuss range from computer music performance and interactive installations to opera, and were all developed through a combination of ethnographic method, historical and archival work, and analysis of musical and social practice.

George E. Lewis is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University. The recipient of a 2002 MacArthur Fellowship, a 1999 Alpert Award in the Arts, a 2011 United States Artists Walker Fellowship, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Lewis has been a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971. His work in electronic and computer music, computer-based multimedia installations, text-sound works, and notated and improvisative forms is documented on more than 140 recordings.

Performances at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival:

22 November 2015 at 7pm, 27 November 2015 at 7pm


Brian Ferneyhough

Monday 30 November 2015, 17:00

Court Room, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Admission free

Brian Ferneyhough is widely recognized as one of today’s foremost living composers. He is William H. Bonsall Professor in Music at Stanford University, and has received many awards including: Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, member of the Berlin Akademie der Künste, the Bayrische Akademie der Schönen Künste and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music. Most recently, he has been awarded the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize for 2007.

Performance at Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester:

25 November 2015 at 7.30pm