Professor Richard Ayres

Visiting Professor in Composition

Birmingham Conservatoire
Biography

"Ayres score is a fizzy cocktail of hyperactivity, Baroque poise, Straussian pastiche, tantalising tango and much more. Zany and anarchic, it nevertheless has a human core." (Barry Millington on The Cricket Recovers, Evening Standard)

Richard Ayres was born in Cornwall in 1965. In 1986 he followed Morton Feldman's classes at the Darmstadt and Dartington summer schools, and studied composition, electronic music and trombone at Huddersfield Polytechnic, graduating with Distinction in 1989. He moved to The Hague for postgraduate study in composition with Andriessen at the Royal Conservatoire and decided to settle in Holland permanently. In 1994, Ayres was awarded the International Gaudeamus Prize for composition during the Gaudeamus Music week; and he received the Vermeulen Prize in 2003, the highest award for a composition in the Netherlands. The same year he was Featured Composer at the Huddersfield Festival. Since 2006 he has taught at the Amsterdam Conservatoire.

Current Activity

Klangforum Wien premiered No. 31 (NONcerto for trumpet and ensemble) in 1998, which was awarded a "recommendation" at the 1999 Unesco Rostrum of Composers in Paris. No. 36 (NONcerto for horn and ensemble), premiered by the ASKO Ensemble, requires the soloist to run between two ‘mountain peaks’ between vituosic lines.

Ayres vocal music shares in this sense of theatricality: No. 42 ‘In the Alps’, an "animated concert" written for soprano Barbara Hannigan and the Netherlands Blazers Ensemble, uses narrative projections in the style of a silent film. In the UK the work was taken up by the London Sinfonietta, and further performances have been seen in the US with ensembles Alarm Will Sound and Present Music. No. 30 (NONcerto for orchestra, soprano and cello) was premiered by the CBSO at the Aldeburgh Festival and has since received performances in Russia, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.

Ayres’ first opera, The Cricket Recovers, based on a story by children’s author Toon Tellegen, was commissioned and premiered by Aldeburgh Almeida Opera in 2005 and followed by a series of productions including at the Brengenzer Festspiele, Staatsoper Stuttgart and the Holland Festival. His second opera, Peter Pan, was premiered in 2013 by Staatstheater Stuttgart, who will revive their production in coming seasons. A revised version will be presented by Welsh National Opera in Spring 2015 and Komische Oper Berlin will present the opera in Autumn 2016.

A commission from Canada’s Continuum Ensemble allowed Ayres to explore film music through a collaboration with renowned film maker Guy Maddin. The resulting work, No. 43 (Glorious) for ensemble and film, was premiered as part of the SHIFT Festival in Amsterdam and also received performances at the Huddersfield Festival in the UK and in Montreal, Canada.

Portrait discs of Ayres' music have been recorded on Donemus (2003) and NMC (2010) by German ensemble Musikfabrik, and In the Alps was recorded by Barbara Hannigan and the Netherlands Blazers Ensemble. Upcoming commissions include a new orchestral work for BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Donaueschingen Festival, and a full-length opera with theatre group 1927 for Covent Garden.'    

Publications

Portrait discs of Ayres' music have been recorded on Donemus (2003) and NMC (2010) by German ensemble Musikfabrik, and In the Alps was recorded by Barbara Hannigan and the Netherlands Blazers Ensemble.