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Hellawell, Piers
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Piers Hellawell

Piers Hellawell studied in England, with James Wood and later with Nicholas Maw. When only 24 he was appointed Composer in Residence at the Queen’s University of Belfast, where he continues to teach as Reader in composition. His works have been commissioned, broadcast and performed all over the world.

Recent commission in the UK include those from the BBC, Hilliard Ensemble, the Holst Foundation and the London symphony orchestra, with performances at many UK festivals, including Cheltenham, St Magnus, Chester, Dartington, Norwich and Spitalfields. Volume 1 of the Hilliard Songbook is performed around the world by the Hilliard Ensemble and was released on the award-winning CD of that name of the ECM label in 1996. Some other recent collaborations have featured the BT Scottish Ensemble, the Nossek String Quartet, Cambridge New Music Players, Michala Petri, Evelyn Glennie, the Schubert Ensemble of London, the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Daniella Ganeva, the ensemble Psappha and the soprano Alison Wells. Hellawell’s Memorial Cairns was heard at the 1997 Helsinki Biennale, and was the same year toured across Australia by the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Future collaborators include the Vanburgh Quartet, Markku Luolajan Mokkola (bass viol) and the ensemble Kokoro.

The premiere in 1997 of Do Not Disturb, commissioned for the London Symphony orchestra and conducted by Sir Colin Davis in a series of performances at the Barbican, was followed by Drum of the Näjd, a concerto for Michala Petri, Evelyn Glennie and the Northern Sinfonia. The CD Sound Carvings, of chamber works from 19910s, was released in 1998 on the Metronome label and was acclaimed in The Gramophon and the BBC Music Magazine as well as overseas. Large scale projects for the next five years include major commission for the Philharmonia and Northern Sinfonia Orchestras. Hellawell’s Inside Story for violin, viola and orchestra is premiered in August at the 1999 Henry Wood Promenade Concerts.

Since the mid 1980s I’ve reacted strongly against the ornate surfaces of much instrumental music of our time, I seek in my work a more direct expression, particularly in my rhythmic and harmonic materials, yet I welcome the diversity that comes from uniting disparate, even dangerous elements under one roof.


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