À propos de John Casken
John Casken’s music has been described as
“beautifully crafted...rich [and] emotionally complex” (Tim Ashley, The Guardian, writing about Apollinaire’s Bird). David Fanning, writing in The Telegraph about this work found that
“The control with which Casken allows tonally-founded harmonies to rise, Alban Berg-like, to the surface, is as remarkable as the fastidiousness of his orchestration, all of which serves to hold concept and craft in ideal balance.”
One of the UK’s leading composers, Casken was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, on 15 July 1949 and read music at the University of Birmingham, studying Composition under John Joubert and Peter Dickinson. From 1971-72 he studied in Poland with Andrzej Dobrowolski at the Academy of Music in Warsaw on a Polish Government Scholarship. It was during this time that he began to have regular consultations with Witold Lutosławski with whom he formed a close association and friendship, and about whose music he has written and lectured. Casken returned to Birmingham as a Lecturer in 1973, and after a Fellowship at Huddersfield Polytechnic in 1980, he was appointed as Lecturer at the University of Durham in 1981. From 1992-2008 he was Professor of Music at The University of Manchester and now retains strong links with Manchester as Emeritus Professor of Music.
Casken has featured at major festivals in Europe, the USA, and in Tokyo at the invitation of Toru Takemitsu. His works range across every genre and their titles reveal that he can be inspired both by literature and legend. The libretto for Casken’s first opera, Golem (1988), based on the Jewish legend, was written by the composer in collaboration with Pierre Audi, who commissioned and directed the work for the 1989 Almeida Festival. Golem has received six further productions since 1989: Opera Omaha, 1990; Northern Stage, 1991; Theater Dortmund, 1994; Aspen Festival, 2000; Neue Operbühne Berlin 2001; Opéra de Rennes and Angers Nantes Opéra, 2006. It was also awarded the First Britten Prize for Composition in 1990 and the VirginClassics recording with the original cast won the 1991 Gramophone Award in the Contemporary Category.
Casken’s second opera, God’s Liar (2000), elaborated Tolstoy’s novella Father Sergius, the composer writing the libretto in collaboration with Emma Warner. The work was jointly co-commissioned and presented by The Almeida Festival, London, and Théâtre Royale de la Monnaie, Brussels in 2001, directed by KeithWarner, with the Almeida Ensemble conducted by Ronald Zollman. It was recorded for Belgian Radio and subsequently broadcast by BBC Radio 3, introduced by the composer. God’s Liar received a further production in 2004 in the KlangBogen Festival by Neue Oper Wien directed by Stephan Bruckmeier.
A number of Casken’s works reflect aspects of the North of England, where he lives in Coquetdale in Northumberland: Orion Over Farne (1984) for orchestra, To Fields We Do Not Know (1985), a Northumbrian Elegy for unaccompanied chorus, written for the BBC Singers, and the orchestral song-cycle Still Mine (1992), written for Thomas Allen for the 1992 BBC Proms and awarded the 1993 Prince Pierre de Monaco Prize for Musical Composition.
His long-held friendship with Royal Northern Sinfonia has resulted in a number of works: Maharal Dreaming (1989), the Cello Concerto (1991), written for Heinrich Schiff, premièred at the 1991 Schleswig-Holstein Festival,Darting the Skiff (1993) for strings, for the 1993 Cheltenham Festival, and Après un silence (1998) for violin and chamber orchestra, with Kyra Humphreys. Farness (2006), three poems of Carol Ann Duffy (2006) for soprano, solo viola and chamber orchestra, was premièred at the 2006 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival with Patricia Rozario and Ruth Killius, directed by Thomas Zehetmair.
Casken also had a long association with The Lindsays for whom he wrote three string quartets. Rest-ringing (2005) for string quartet and orchestra was commissioned by The Hallé for the quartet in the year of their retirement. He wrote Piano Trio (2002) for The Florestan Piano Trio, and his third quartet, Choses en moi (2003), was taken up by Quatuor Danel.
Casken’s Violin Concerto (1995), premiered at the 1995 Proms with Dmitri Sitkovetsky, was later taken up by Daniel Hope. His first symphony Symphony (Broken Consort) (2004)was commissioned for the BBC Philharmonic for the 2004 Proms, and Concerto for Orchestra (2007) for the Nationaltheater-Orchesters Mannheim was premiered in 2008. Further orchestral works include an oboe concerto for the Hallé and their principle oboist Stephane Rancourt, Apollinaire’s Bird (2013), premiered under Sir Mark Elder in 2014, Casken’s 65th birthday year. That Subtle Knot (2013), a double concerto for Royal Northern Sinfonia, Thomas Zehetmair and Ruth Killius, was premiered the same year at the Sage Gateshead and in London with subsequent performances by Camerata Salzburg at the Salzburg Festival, Munich Chamber Orchestra and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Casken has continued his association with the Hallé Orchestra, writing Madonna of Silence (2017-18) for their principal trombone player, Katy Jones. The ‘drama for trombone and orchestra’ was premiered in February 2019.
Casken’s rich body of ensemble works include Deadly Pleasures (2009) for narrator and ensemble, which toured the UK with Johanna Lonsky and Counterpoise throughout 2009/10 and Winter Reels (2010) for ensemble Psappha. The Dream of the Rood (2008), written for The Hilliard Ensemble and Ensemble 10/10, premiered in Liverpool in October 2008 as part of the European Capital of Culture celebrations. It received the 2009 BASCA Award for choral music and toured the Netherlands with The Hilliard Ensemble and Asko Ensemble in 2014. Kokoschka's Doll (2016) was premiered by Sir John Tomlinson and Counterpoise at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival, with the following tour including performances at Deal and Buxton Festivals. Further chamber works include Stolen Airs (2015) for cello and piano, and Serpents of Wisdom (2015) for horn and piano which was commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society in partnership with BBC Radio 3 as part of the New Generation Artists Scheme, and the clarinet quintet Misted Land (2017) written for the Nash Ensemble.
Most recently, Casken's Madonna of Silence (2018) received its world premiere by The Hallé featuring Katy Jones on solo trombone and From this red earth (2019) had its first performance by the Choir of Lincoln's Inn under the baton of Nicholas Shaw. In 2020, he was announced the winner of the Royal Musical Association's inaugural Tippett Medal for Counterpoise's production of The Shackled King (2022) for which he was also granted an Ivors Composer Award nomination.
Casken’s music has been recorded on Collins Classics, ECM, NMC Recordings, and Metier, among others, including a disc of orchestral music, Orion Over Farne, recorded by the Hallé and Markus Stenz for NMC. In 2019 three new recordings of Casken’s music were released: The Dream of The Rood (NMC) with The Hilliard Ensemble and Asko | Schönberg conducted by Clark Rundell, Stolen Airs (Prima Facie) including a selection of chamber works, and Kokoschka's Doll (Champs Hill); and in 2023, ECM New Series released the Royal Northern Sinfonia's recording of That Subtle Knot.
Regular classes at the Academy of Music with Andrzej Dobrowolski and consultations with Witold Lutosławski
First BBC broadcast Music for Cello and Piano (unpublished) BBC Young Composers’ Forum
World premiere of "Firewhirl" for soprano and small ensemble
World premiere of "Orion over Farne" for orchestra
World premiere of "Vaganza" for large ensemble
World premiere of "Golem" chamber opera in two acts at the Almeida Theatre, London
World premiere of "Maharal Dreaming" for orchestra with the Northern Sinfonia
Awarded D.Mus. by University of Durham
World premiere of "Cello Concerto" with Heinrich Schiff and the Northern Sinfonia
UK tour of "Golem" with Arts Council Contemporary Music Network Tour
World premiere of"Still Mine" for baritone and orchestra at the BBC Proms
"Tableaux des Trois Ages" performed by BBC Philharmonic and Yan Pascal Tortelier: begins long association with BBC Philharmonic
World premiere of "Darting the Skiff" for string orchestra
World premiere of "Infanta Marina" for cor anglais and small ensemble with the Nash Ensemble
Conducts Northern Sinfonia in premiere recordings of "Darting the Skiff" , "Maharal Dreaming", and "Vaganza" (Collins Classics, re-released on NMC in 2003)
Artistic Advisor, ‘Breaking Chains’ Festival of Lutosławski’s music, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London Chairman of BBC Young Composers’ Competition, Manchester
‘The visionary and the dramatic in the music of Witold Lutosławski’ – chapter published in Lutosławski Studies (ed. Zbigniew Skowron, OUP)
World premiere of "Symphony (Broken Consort)" for orchestra with the BBC Philharmonic and Gianandrea Noseda
World premiere of "Rest-Ringing" for string quartet and orchestra with the Lindsay String Quartet and the Hallé
Jury Member of Witold Lutosławski Composers’ Competition, Warsaw
Jury Member of Aberdeen Music Prize
World premiere of "The Dream of the Rood" for vocal and chamber ensembles with the Hilliard Ensemble and Ensemble 10/10
Composer Director, Lake District Summer Music School for Composers, Sedbergh, with Orlando Consort
Jury Member of International Composers’ Competition, Stresa, Italy
Featured Composer, The International Organ Festival at St Alban’s, "Sacrificium" is the test piece for the Quarter-Finalists
Winner of the 2009 British Composer Awards (Vocal Category) for "The Dream of the Rood"
Awarded degree of Doctor of Civil Law (honoris causa) by University of King's College, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Awarded degree of Doctor of Music (honoris causa) by University of Birmingham
World premiere of "Apollinaire's Bird" for oboe and orchestra with Stéphane Rancourt, oboe and the Hallé conducted by Mark Elder
"Apollinaire's Bird" shortlisted for the 2014 Royal Philharmonic Society Awards and BASCA Awards
World premiere of "Misted Land" by the Nash Ensemble at Wigmore Hall
World premiere of "From this red earth" by the Choir of Lincoln's Inn
World premiere of "Madonna of Silence" by The Hallé and Katy Jones
NCM album release of John Casken: The Dream of the Rood featuring The Hilliard Ensemble and Asko | Schönberg Ensemble
Royal Musical Association awards Tippett Medal for "The Shackled King*
"Shackled King" receives Ivors Composer Award nomation
ECM New Series album release of the Royal Northern Sinfonia's recording of "That Subtle Knot"
for violin and tapeMedia Type: Matériel en location / d'exécutionEdition: Matériel d'exécution, Ausgabe mit MCInstrumentation: violon et bande magnétique
for tenor recorder, bells and stringsMedia Type: Matériel en location / d'exécutionEdition: Matériel d'exécutionInstrumentation: flûte à bec ténor, cloches et cordes
for SATB choir and organMedia Type: PartitionEdition: Partition de choeurInstrumentation: choeur mixte (SATB) et orgueLangue: AnglaisNuméro du produit: ED 131755,99 €TTC, hors expédition5,99 €TTC, hors expéditionÉpuisé
for celloMedia Type: PartitionInstrumentation: violoncelleNuméro du produit: ED 1249015,50 €TTC, hors expédition15,50 €TTC, hors expéditionEn stock
for nine playersMedia Type: Matériel en location / d'exécutionEdition: Matériel d'exécutionInstrumentation: 9 musicien
for chamber orchestraMedia Type: PartitionEdition: PartitionSérie: Amarantos
Instrumentation: orchestre de chambreNuméro du produit: ED 1148335,00 €TTC, hors expédition35,00 €TTC, hors expéditionEn stock
pour hautbois soloInstrumentation: hautboisNuméro du produit: ED 13287Prix à partir de10,99 €TTCPrix à partir de10,99 €TTCEn stock
Concerto for oboe and orchestraMedia Type: Matériel en location / d'exécutionEdition: Matériel d'exécutionInstrumentation: hautbois et orchestre
for violin and chamber orchestraMedia Type: Matériel en location / d'exécutionEdition: Matériel d'exécutionInstrumentation: violon et orchestre de chambre
for violin and pianoMedia Type: PartitionSérie: Après un silence
Instrumentation: violon et pianoNuméro du produit: ED 1265028,00 €TTC, hors expédition28,00 €TTC, hors expéditionEn stock
for bassoon and pianoSéries: Bassoon Library
Instrumentation: basson et pianoNuméro du produit: FAG 1001Prix à partir de10,99 €TTCPrix à partir de10,99 €TTCEn stock
for bassoon and ensembleMedia Type: Matériel en location / d'exécutionEdition: Matériel d'exécutionInstrumentation: basson et ensemble
for cello and chamber orchestraMedia Type: Matériel en location / d'exécutionEdition: Matériel d'exécutionInstrumentation: violoncelle et orchestre de chambre
Media Type: PartitionEdition: Partition d'étudeSéries: Music Of Our Time
Instrumentation: violoncelle et orchestreNuméro du produit: ED 1239432,00 €TTC, hors expédition32,00 €TTC, hors expéditionEn stock
for soprano and pianoInstrumentation: soprano et pianoNuméro du produit: ED 13182Prix à partir de16,99 €TTCPrix à partir de16,99 €TTCEn stock
Hymn and Variation on "The race that long in darkness pined"Edition: Partition de choeurSérie: Choral Music of Our Time
Instrumentation: choeur mixte (SATB)Numéro du produit: ED 14034Prix à partir de2,99 €TTCPrix à partir de2,99 €TTCEn stock
for string quartetEdition: Partition et partiesInstrumentation: quatuor à cordesNuméro du produit: ED 12868Prix à partir de13,99 €TTCPrix à partir de13,99 €TTCEn stock
for brass quintetMedia Type: Matériel en location / d'exécutionEdition: Matériel d'exécutionInstrumentation: brass quintet
Edition: Partition d'étudeInstrumentation: orchestreNuméro du produit: ED 13617Prix à partir de29,99 €TTCPrix à partir de29,99 €TTCEn stock
Media Type: Matériel en location / d'exécutionEdition: Matériel d'exécutionInstrumentation: orchestre