Brian Inglis

Brian Inglis

Brian Inglis’ music has been described as extraordinary, powerful, moving and passionate. His output ranges from unaccompanied solos to orchestral works, also taking in multimedia and pop. Alongside virtuoso showpieces like Sailing to Byzantium for recorder, he is equally at home with commissions for amateur choirs (Without Loss, Verbum bonum et suave, After-Thought). His music combines experimental elements with eclectic historical, geographical and genre influences – from Japanese music to synthpop. Enduring threads which weave through his music are mystical texts and themes; process and intuition; movement and stasis; polystylism and postmodernism. The latter are evident in 2017’s Piano Trio, of which seenandheard-international wrote: ‘there proved to be plenty of “passion” in the work, generated by the rapid-fire juxtapositions, alternations and altercations… as well as contrasts between syncopated propulsion, rhythmic hyper-tension and disturbing dissipation of movement. And strikingly in 1993’s Recorder Concerto, which blokfluitist magazine hailed as ‘a remarkable piece’ in 2017.

Brian was born in Germany of Scottish-Irish heritage. He studied music at the University of Durham and composition at City University, London – an MA was awarded in 1993 (along with the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers’ Prize), and a PhD (supported by a British Academy major scholarship) in 1999. Teachers include Roger Redgate, Simon Holt and Rhian Samuel. Outside formal study, he has participated in the Dartington International Summer School; Aberystwyth’s Musicfest, and the Dundaga Workshop (Latvia). Following a period living in Wales (1997-99), he has lived in London since 2000.

Brian first came to attention as a composer when his Responsory – a setting of words by Hildegard of Bingen – was performed at the 1992 Huddersfield Festival. Many other Hildegard-inspired works followed, including an opera on her life (1997). Further operas are the radical The Song of Margery Kempe for solo unaccompanied voice, premiered by Loré Lixenberg at the Tête-à-Tête opera festival in 2008/9; and The Break-Up, a six-word operatic miniature written for the Warehouse Ensemble, performed at the same festival in 2011.

Another early interest was the poetry of the First World War, exemplified by Three War Songs (taken up by Roderick Williams and Jeremy Huw Williams). These early interests fuse in the oratorio Visions of Sorrow and Joy (1998) – a commission from Bath Choral Society sponsored by Making Music’s pilot ‘Adopt a Composer’ scheme.

Further commissions include Jubilee Prayer for the Millennium celebrations in Wales, broadcast on BBC2, Radio Wales and Radio Cymru in 2000 – ‘a highpoint of the service’ (Cytûn). (His music has also been heard on BBC radios 1 and 3, London’s Resonance FM and Germany’s Bayern 2.). Burmese Pictures, whose ‘pleasantly tropical luxuriance’ was praised by Ivan Hewett (Daily Telegraph) was commissioned for Consortium 5. It has toured venues and festivals (Deal, Truck, Spitalfields) throughout the UK and was released on the Nonclassical record label in 2011. Highbury Fields, a cantata for chorus and orchestra written in collaboration with lyricist Charles Hart (The Phantom of the Opera, Bend it like Beckham), was commissioned by Islington Choral Society. Four Pieces for toy piano was commissioned by Kate Ryder and premiered at Borough New Music in 2018. Her recording of ‘Laugh’ (with a recited text by Derek Shiel) was released by Nonclassical in 2020, and a number of the pieces were performed by Brian himself at the Music as Play festival in Como, Italy in 2019. Brian’s music and arrangements have been heard at many other festivals, including Guildford International, Greenbelt and Sonorities, Belfast.

Concerto for Piano Solo, in honour of the bicentenary of the birth of French composer Charles-Valentin Alkan, encapsulates a longstanding interest in alternative music history and features a graphic score cadenza. It has enjoyed a string of spectacular live performances since its premiere by Gabriel Keen at the Stoke Newington Contemporary Music Festival. In 2017 the Concerto was released on Brian’s debut solo album, Living Stones (Sargasso), also featuring his Piano Sonata (2002) and Four Piano Pieces (1992-2014). British Music wrote: ‘The concerto for piano solo (homage to Alkan) [demands] a virtuoso performer and in Gabriel Keen it certainly gets that…. The music is very modern and very much the composer’s own. It would certainly be of interest for aspiring young pianists hoping to expand their abilities’. (2019)

Having taught at Trinity Laban and the RCM, Brian is now Senior Lecturer and BA Music Programme Leader at Middlesex University. Also a musicologist, he researches broadly in the areas of genre and identity; topics which also feature in his music, about which he has written in both academic contexts (for Cambridge Scholars, Peter Lang and Revista Vórtex) and non-academic ones (for the Alkan Society Bulletin and The Recorder Magazine).

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Showing 1–20 of 57 results