Music

Dr Julian Philips MA (Cantab) FGS

Born in Wales in 1969 and brought up in Warwickshire, Julian Philips studied music at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He has already achieved astonishing success as both composer and educator.

Philips’ music has been performed widely across the world at major festivals and venues including the Proms, the Tanglewood Music Festival and the Wigmore Hall by international artists including Gerald Finley, Dawn Upshaw, Sir Thomas Allen, the Vertavo String Quartet, the Tanglewood Festival Orchestra and the BBC orchestras. He has received numerous broadcasts, and his work has been the subject of a BBC Wales television documentary.

Philips has enjoyed a particular affinity with music for the voice and has received critical acclaim for his settings of e e cummings, Dylan Thomas, Emily Dickinson and Arthur Rimbaud among others. His song cycle I lay me down to dream of spring (1992) was an early success when performed by baritone Martyn Hill and broadcast by Radio 3. Fern Hill was featured in Dawn Upshaw’s 1997 Wigmore Hall masterclass and subsequently commercially released on the Sain label while There is a morn by men unseen, premiered by Gerald Finley and Julius Drake, was commissioned for the Director’s Festival Gala Concert at the Wigmore Hall in May 2003. In April 2005 Philips’ String Quartet with baritone, Sweet Love Remembered, was premièred by the Vertavo String Quartet.

In addition to solo vocal works, Philips has written several works for choirs. In November 2002, his anthem for the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund annual Festival of St Cecilia, Song’s Eternity, was premiered by the combined choirs of Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral and St Paul’s Cathedral. Other choral works include The Moving Image (Highgate Choral Society/New London Orchestra), VertueTwo Carols and a Curse (New London Childrens’ choir) and Reaching for Andromeda, a birthday tribute to Sir Michael Tippett, premiered by the Finzi Singers at the Wigmore Hall in 1995.

Following the success of Philips’ 1999 orchestral work Strange Seas, commissioned by the Britten Sinfonia and later performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the BBC Proms commissioned a symphonic poem Out of Light which was premièred at the Royal Albert Hall by the BBCNOW in 2001. The work was extremely well-received. In 2005 a revised version of the piece was featured at the Tanglewood Music Festival. Philips’ next work for large orchestra is a full-length ballet based on Les Liaisons Dangereuses, with choreography by Michael Corder.

Ballet is a natural progression for Philips who already has an impressive track-record in composing for the theatre. He has enjoyed a particularly fruitful artistic partnership with director Michael Grandage, with whom he has collaborated on productions including The Tempest starring Sir Derek Jacobi (Old Vic, London), Richard III with Kenneth Branagh (Crucible Theatre, Sheffield) and Edward II starring Joseph Fiennes. Their production of As You Like It (Lyric Hammersmith/Crucible Theatre) went on to win the South Bank Theatre Award (2001).

An increasingly vital force in education, Philips took up the post of Head of Composition at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in September 2004. Currently Glyndebourne Opera's Composer in Residence, he maintains his position as Professor of Composition at the Guildhall School while he completes work for Glyndebourne. He has tutored at Cambridge University, and led innovative adult learning programmes at the Wigmore Hall and for the Orchestra of the Swan.

Picture: David Ilman