Richard Ayres

Richard Ayres

Born: October 29th, 1965
Country of origin: United Kingdom


No. 42
Conductor: Alan Pierson
April 27th, 2014 | Carnegie Hall - New York, NY - United States of America


“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 (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.

A series of NONcertos for solo instrument and ensemble/orchestra form a salient group in Ayres oeuvre, in which every work (including his operas) bears a number as its title. 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. Theatricality also plays a large part: No. 36 (NONcerto for horn and ensemble), premiered by the ASKO Ensemble and later taken up by both the London Sinfonietta and Remix Ensemble, requires the soloist to run between two ‘mountain peaks’ and includes a narrative projected behind the musicians. No. 42 ‘In the Alps’, described by the composer as an "animated concert", was written for soprano Barbara Hannigan and the Netherlands Wind Ensemble, who toured the piece throughout Holland in 2008. It was given its UK premiere by the London Sinfonietta in spring 2010, and recorded commercially by the original performers the same year.

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. 

Ayres' music has been widely performed throughout Europe and the UK. 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 and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestras. No. 40 (NONcerto for oboe and chamber orchestra) was premiered by Baart Schneemann and the Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra in 2006 at a ZaterdaagMatinnee in the Concertgebouw; and 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. No. 46 for orchestra was premiered in the 2011 Holland Festival by the Residentie Orkest under Reinbert de Leeuw (and repeated there the following year); Ilan Volkov has since taken it to Strasbourg and Glasgow.

Ayres is currently working on his second opera, No. 45 'Peter Pan', with a libretto by Lavinia Greenlaw, commissioned by Staatstheater Stuttgart and the Komische Oper, co-produced with the Welsh National Opera. His first opera, No. 39 'The Cricket Recovers' is a chamber opera based on a story by children’s author Toon Tellegen and was commissioned and premiered by Aldeburgh Almeida Opera in 2005. The original production also went to the Bregenz Festival and further productions were staged in Stuttgart, Weimar and Braunschweig.

Two discs of Ayres' music have been recorded by the German ensemble Musikfabrik: "Richard Ayres: Composers' Voice Portrait" on Donemus (2003) and "NONcertos" on NMC (2010).