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Simon Holt

Born: 1958

Nationality: British

Publisher: Chester Music

Photo © Madeleine Alldis


Simon Holt was born in Bolton, Lancashire on 21 February, 1958. Educated at Bolton School, Holt immersed himself in organ, piano and visual art during his sixth form years. In 1976, he attended Bolton College of Art for a year where he fulfilled a foundation course in all areas of visual representation. Shortly before achieving a diploma in composition from the Royal Northern College of Music, where he studied with Anthony Gilbert for four years from 1978 to 1982, he received a commission from the London Sinfonietta, which became Kites (1983). He was soon firmly established with a series of commissions and fruitful collaborations including not only with the Sinfonietta, but also the Nash Ensemble and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, resulting in pieces such as eco-pavan (1998), Sparrow Night (1989) and Lilith (1990) respectively. Inspired by Messiaen, Xenakis and Feldman as well as visual artists such as Goya, Giacometti and Brâncusi, his music is innately dramatic and impulsive in nature. His output is diverse, comprising chamber music, concertos, songs, opera, orchestral and piano music. Holt is a composer who demands unusual commitment from his interpreters - the intricate sound-worlds he creates often contain complex, rich textures, offset by ‘still centres’ - for the purpose of making music which speaks with extraordinary power.

From 2000 onwards, Holt has written several concertos and orchestral pieces, including a table of noises (2007), a percussion concerto for Colin Currie. Holt was Composer in Association with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales from 2008 to 2014, working closely with the conductor Thierry Fischer on pieces such as Troubled Light (2008) for orchestra and Morpheus Wakes (2011), a flute concerto written for Emmanuel Pahud, both for the BBC Proms. Previously, Holt had been commissioned to write two orchestral pieces for the BBC Proms; Syrensong (1987), his first orchestral piece, written for the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the viola concerto, walking with the river’s roar (1991), for Nobuko Imai and the BBC Philharmonic. Recent commissions include the orchestral piece, Surcos (2016), for Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker and co-commissioned by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra who gave the UK premiere with the conductor Ilan Volkov and the basset clarinet concerto, Joy Beast (2016), for Mark Simpson and the BBC Philharmonic as part of the New Music Biennial 2017.

Simon Holt’s music has been recorded on several record labels, most extensively with NMC.

Holt is currently Professor of Composition at the Royal College of Music.
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