Born in Warwickshire in 1939, Jonathan Harvey was a chorister at St Michael's College, Tenbury and later a major music scholar at St John's College, Cambridge. He gained doctorates from the universities of Glasgow and Cambridge and (on the advice of Benjamin Britten) also studied privately with Erwin Stein and Hans Keller. He was a Harkness Fellow at Princeton (1969-70).
An invitation from Boulez to work at IRCAM in the early 1980s has so far resulted in eight realisations at the Institute, and two for the Ensemble Intercontemporain, including the celebrated tape piece Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco, Bhakti for ensemble and electronics, and String Quartet No.4, with live electronics. Harvey has also composed for most other genres: orchestra (Tranquil Abiding, White as Jasmine and Madonna of Winter and Spring - the latter performed by the Berliner Philharmoniker and Simon Rattle in 2006), chamber (four string quartets, Soleil Noir/Chitra, and Death of Light, Light of Death, for instance) as well as works for solo instruments. He has written many widely-performed unaccompanied works for choir - as well as the large-scale cantata for the BBC Proms Millennium, Mothers shall not Cry (2000). His church opera Passion and Resurrection (l981) was the subject of a BBC television film, and has received seventeen subsequent performances. His opera Inquest of Love, commissioned by ENO, was premiered under the baton of Mark Elder in 1993 and repeated at Theatre de la Monnaie, Brussels in 1994. His third opera, Wagner Dream, commissioned by Nederlandse Oper and realized at IRCAM was premiered to great acclaim in 2007. 2008 saw the premiere of Messages (for the Rundfunkchor Berlin and the Berlin Philharmoniker) and Speakings (co-commission with BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, IRCAM and Radio France); Speakings was the culmination of his residency (2005-08) with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra from which Body Mandala and ...towards a pure land have also emerged. All three works featured on the Gramophone Award-winning NMC disc released in the same year.
Harvey is now in constant demand from a host of international organisations, attracting commissions far into the future, and his music is extensively played and toured by the major ensembles of our time (Musikfabrik, Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Intercontemporain, London Sinfonietta, ASKO, Nieuw Ensemble of Amsterdam and Ictus Ensemble, to name but a few). His music has been showcased at most centres and festivals for contemporary music. Some 150-200 performances are given or broadcast each year and about 100 recordings of his music are issued on CD. He has honorary doctorates from the universities of Southampton, Sussex, Bristol, Birmingham and Huddersfield, is a Member of Academia Europaea, and in 1993 was awarded the prestigious Britten Award for composition. In 2007 he was awarded the Giga-Hertz Prize for a lifetime's work in electronic music. He published two books in 1999, on inspiration and spirituality respectively. Arnold Whittall's study of his music appeared in 1999, published by Faber & Faber (and in French by IRCAM) in the same year. Two years later John Palmer published a substantial study: " Jonathan Harvey's Bhakti" Edwin Mellen Press. Michael Downes published a penetrating book on two works in 2009 with Ashgate.
Harvey was Professor of Music at Sussex University between 1977 and 1993 where he is currently an Honorary Professor. He was Professor of Music at Stanford University (US) between 1995 and 2000, is an Honorary Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge and was a Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study in Berlin in 2009.
Harvey's standing in the international musical community is celebrated between May 2009 - May 2010 with many dedicated concerts, new recordings, festival focuses and composer portraits.
(copyright: Faber Music Ltd, December 2009)