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Howard Skempton

Biography

Born: October 31, 1947; Chester, England  
Howard Skempton is not only among the most important English composers of experimental music, but one of the few from any country to regularly employ the accordion in his compositions. He emerged as a leading voice in progressive music in the late '60s and early '70s, when the influence of Webern and Cage was still prevalent worldwide. Skempton has written solo music for piano and accordion, songs, and, since about the mid-'80s, a sizable number Read more of works for orchestra or large chamber ensembles. His style typically involves slow tempos, clear textures, sparse thematic development, and brevity of expression. Skempton often employs aleatory elements in his works and largely focuses on melody or on fairly straightforward thematic material. In short, his music is accessible in its clarity and lack of dissonance, but challenging in its aims and ideas. One might compare him with Webern, as well as with Morton Feldman, whose music also left its mark on Skempton. While Skempton's works are still not widely played, his influence has been considerable both in England and across much of the globe.

Howard Skempton was born in Chester, England, on October 31, 1947. From 1967-1968 he studied music at Ealing Technical College and from 1968-1971 at Morley College, where his composition teachers included Cornelius Cardew.

Skempton's earliest works date to his student years and include the piano piece A Humming Song (1967), which already exhibited many elements of his mature style. In 1969 Skempton, along with Cardew and Michael Parsons, founded the Scratch Orchestra, an ensemble devoted to the performance of experimental contemporary music. The group broke up by 1974, owing to objections by Skempton and Parsons over attempts by Cardew and others to inject Marxist politics into the ensemble's agenda

From the early '70s, Skempton was active in performance (he formed a duo with Parsons in 1974), as a teacher, music editor, and, especially, as a composer. Since about the mid-'80s, when hefty commissions were becoming more frequent, Skempton has been turning more often to larger compositions. His 1990 Lento, for orchestra, has become one of his most popular works, and later efforts like the 1997 Concerto for Oboe, Accordion and String Orchestra have also drawn considerable notice. In the new century Skempton has served on the faculty of the Birmingham Conservatory as professor of composition and continues to draw critical acclaim for works like his 2004 string quartet Tendrils. Read less
Skempton: Pigs Could Fly, Alice Is One;  Britten, Tavener, Bliss, Rutter, Etc / Corp, Wells, Et Al
Release Date: 11/18/2008   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8572113   Number of Discs: 1
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Browse 1-25 of 31 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    The Wonder of Christmas / Elora Festival Singers
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8573421 Release Date: 11/11/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henry John Gauntlett,  Traditional,  Benjamin Britten,  Benjamin Russell Hanby  ... 
    Performer:  Michael Bloss
    Conductor:  Noel Edison
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Elora Festival Singers
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  • 2.
    My Beloved's Voice - Sacred Songs Of Love / Williams, Choir Of Jesus College Cambridge
    Label: Signum U.k.   Catalog: 370 Release Date: 08/12/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Antoine Brumel,  Robert Walker,  Patrick Hadley,  Maurice Duruflé  ... 
    Conductor:  Mark Williams
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Jesus College Choir
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  • 3.
    New Music Collections: Choral
    Label: Nmc   Catalog: 204 Release Date: 04/29/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Julian Anderson,  Giles Swayne,  Robert Saxton,  Michael Finnissy  ... 
    Performer:  Howard Skempton,  Michael Finnissy
    Conductor:  Simon Halsey,  John Poole,  James Weeks,  Sir David Willcocks  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ex Cathedra (Early Music Ens.),  Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
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  • 4.
    Advent At Merton / Phillips, Nicholas, Choir of Merton College, Oxford
    Label: Delphian   Catalog: 34122 Release Date: 10/08/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Matthew Martin,  David Blackwell,  William Byrd,  James MacMillan  ... 
    Performer:  Christopher Watson,  Anna Steppler,  Emily Tann
    Conductor:  Benjamin Nicholas,  Peter Phillips
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Oxford Merton College Choir
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  • 5.
    A Doll's House / Ensemble Bash
    Label: Signum U.k.   Catalog: 294 Release Date: 10/30/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Graham Fitkin,  Howard Skempton,  Stephen Montague,  David Bedford  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Bash
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  • 6.
    Standing Wave: New Music For Guitar
    Label: Bgs (British Guitar Society)   Catalog: 110 Release Date: 11/08/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Graham Fitkin,  Joby Talbot,  Edward McGuire,  Howard Skempton  ... 
    Performer:  Tom Kerstens,  John Metcalfe,  Sophie Harris,  Abigail James
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  • 7.
    Label: Bgs (British Guitar Society)   Catalog: 113 Release Date: 10/11/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giles Swayne,  Errollyn Wallen,  Howard Skempton,  Toru Takemitsu  ... 
    Performer:  Tom Kerstens
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  • 8.
    British! Piano Music / Steffen Schleiermacher
    Label: Md&g (Dabringhaus & Grimm)   Catalog: 6131634 Release Date: 08/16/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Emsley,  Howard Skempton,  Michael Finnissy,  Laurence Crane
    Performer:  Steffen Schleiermacher
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  • 9.
    Scotland At Night
    Label: Delphian   Catalog: 34060 Release Date: 07/12/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Traditional,  Tom Cunningham,  James MacMillan,  Howard Skempton  ... 
    Performer:  Michael Bradley,  Beth Mackay,  Lisa Swayne,  Thomas Laing-Reilly
    Conductor:  Mike Brewer
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  • 10.
    Songbook / Tewkesbury Abbey Schola Cantorum Trebles
    Label: Delphian   Catalog: 34097 Release Date: 01/10/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arvo Pärt,  Henry Purcell,  Gabriel Jackson,  Howard Skempton  ... 
    Performer:  Carleton Etherington,  Benjamin Nicholas
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  • 11.
    Howard Skempton: Bolt From The Blue
    Label: Mode   Catalog: 226 Release Date: 10/26/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Howard Skempton
    Performer:  Daniel Becker,  Jonathan Saunders,  Juliet Fraser,  Julia Doyle
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  • 12.
    Bach+ - Zimmerman, Skempton, Holt, Barry, Henze / Ulrich Heinen
    Label: Metier   Catalog: 28511 Release Date: 04/13/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Simon Holt,  Gerald Barry,  Howard Skempton,  Bernd Alois Zimmermann  ... 
    Performer:  Ulrich Heinen
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  • 13.
    Greatest Hits Of All Time - Contemporary Oboe Music
    Label: Metier   Catalog: 28513 Release Date: 12/08/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Michael Finnissy,  Howard Skempton,  Christopher Fox,  Roger Redgate  ... 
    Performer:  Robin Michael,  Bridget Carey,  Christopher Redgate,  Roger Redgate
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Exposé Ensemble,  Kreutzer String Quartet
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  • 14.
    The Cloths Of Heaven - Howard Skempton / Owens, Exon Singers
    Label: Delphian   Catalog: 34056 Release Date: 11/25/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Howard Skempton
    Performer:  Matthew Owens
    Conductor:  Matthew Owens
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Exon Singers
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  • 15.
    Skempton: Pigs Could Fly, Alice Is One;  Britten, Tavener, Bliss, Rutter, Etc / Corp, Wells, Et Al
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8572113 Release Date: 11/18/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Sir Arthur Bliss,  Nicholas Maw,  Philip Godfrey,  Ronald Corp  ... 
    Performer:  Alexander Wells
    Conductor:  Ronald Corp
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New London Children's Choir
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  • 16.
    Romantic Residues / Gilchrist, Nicholls, Martin
    Label: Hyperion   Catalog: 67725 Release Date: 08/12/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel,  Benjamin Britten,  André Caplet,  Gabriel Fauré  ... 
    Performer:  James Gilchrist,  Alison Nicholls,  Jaime Martin
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  • 17.
    Song Of Songs / Mike Brewer, Laudibus
    Label: Delphian   Catalog: 34042 Release Date: 12/18/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Sir William Walton,  Guillaume Bouzignac,  Howard Skempton,  Gabriel Jackson  ... 
    Conductor:  Mike Brewer
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Laudibus
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  • 18.
    Skempton: Ben Somewhere, Etc / Weeks, Et Al
    Label: Nmc   Catalog: 135 Release Date: 09/25/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Howard Skempton
    Conductor:  James D.E. Weeks
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  EXAUDI,  Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
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  • 19.
    New French Song / Alison Smart, Katharine Durran
    Label: Metier   Catalog: 92100 Release Date: 09/18/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Tarik O'Regan,  Sadie Harrison,  Will Todd,  Edward Cowie  ... 
    Performer:  Katharine Durran,  Alison Smart
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  • 20.
    Finnissy, Skempton, Redgate, Salter, Etc / Andrew Sparling
    Label: Nmc   Catalog: 92 Release Date: 03/01/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Nick Hayes,  Roger Redgate,  Timothy Salter,  Michael Parsons  ... 
    Performer:  Andrew Sparling,  Miriam Lowbury,  Antony Gray,  Thalia Myers  ... 
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  • 21.
    Songs Of Heaven & Earth - Britten, Vaughan Williams, Et Al
    Label: Guild   Catalog: 7265 Release Date: 10/28/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten,  Howard Skempton,  Brian Brockless,  Jonathan Harvey  ... 
    Performer:  Samuel Hayes
    Conductor:  Matthew Steynor
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge Queens' College Choir
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  • 22.
    Traditional And Modern Carols / Hillier, Pro Arte Singers
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 3957233 Release Date: 11/12/2002   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Prudence Houston,  John Jacob Niles,  Martha J. Anderson  ... 
    Conductor:  Paul Hillier
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Pro Arte Singers,  Indiana University Children's Chamber Choir
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  • 23.
    Music For You - Skempton: Piano Works / John Tilbury
    Label: Legacy Recordings   Catalog: 89954 Release Date: 05/07/2002   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Howard Skempton
    Performer:  John Tilbury
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  • 24.
    Music For You - What Does Your World Sound Like?
    Label: Legacy Recordings   Catalog: 89906 Release Date: 05/07/2002   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Antonín Dvorák,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Philip Glass,  Charles Koechlin  ... 
    Performer:  Emanuel Ax,  Yo-Yo Ma,  Kim Young Uck,  John Williams  ... 
    Conductor:  John Williams,  Michael Riesman,  Carlo Maria Giulini
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  Philip Glass Ensemble,  Tal & Groethuysen Duo  ... 
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  • 25.
    Label: Nmc   Catalog: NMCD005 Release Date: 01/28/2002   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Howard Skempton
    Conductor:  Mark Wigglesworth
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