Richard Ayres was born in Cornwall (southwest Britain) 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.
Ayres’ orchestral works and series of ‘NONcertos’ for solo instrument and ensemble/orchestra have been performed throughout Europe and the UK. Taken as a body of work, they present a kaleidescope of colour, emotion and musical style, often involving strong visual and dramatic ideas and each bearing a number as its title. No. 37b
for orchestra was premiered at the Donaueschingen Musiktage by the SWR Sinfonieorchester Freiburg and Baden-Baden and has since been taken up by Frankfurt Radio Orchestra and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. No. 46
for orchestra was premiered in the 2011 Holland Festival by the Residentie Orkest under Reinbert de Leeuw and repeated the following year; Ilan Volkov has also conducted the work both in Strasbourg and Glasgow.
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. It has had further performances in the UK by London Sinfonietta and the US by ensemble Alarm Will Sound. 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. His second opera, Peter Pan
, with a libretto by Lavinia Greenlaw, was premiered in December 2013 at Staatstheater Stuttgart, where it will be revived in 2016. A new co-production with Welsh National Opera and Komische Oper Berlin will be presented in the UK in Spring 2015 and Germany 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.