John Shirley-Quirk


Born: August 28, 1931; Liverpool, England   Died: April 7; Bath, England  
English baritone John Shirley-Quirk enjoyed singing and playing the violin as a child, but his true vocal talent did not become apparent until he was already studying chemistry and physics at the University of Liverpool. After several years of teaching those subjects at a British Air Force station, he began to study with the baritone Roy Henderson (1957). In 1961-1962, he sang with the Cathedral Choir at St. John's in London; during the same time Read more he made his debut at Glydebourne in 1961 as Gregor Mittenhofer in Henze's Elegy for Young Lovers.

In 1963, Benjamin Britten recruited him to join his English Opera Group; with that group he sang the premiere performances of Britten's Curlew River, The Burning Fiery Furnace, The Prodigal Son, Owen Wingrave, and Death in Venice (between 1964 and 1973). During that time, he also sang Guglielmo in Così fan tutte and, later, Golaud in Pelléas et Mélisande at the Scottish National Opera. He created the role of Lev in Tippett's The Ice Break at Covent Garden in 1977.

Though his career centered around British venues and the music of English composers, Shirley-Quirk's career was by no means provincial. He sang his first performances of Wozzeck in St. Louis, and debuted in Berlin with Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle in 1969. Milan's Teatro alla Scala engaged him as Rangoni in Boris Godunov, and in 1974 he made his Metropolitan Opera debut in Britten's Death in Venice. Other important roles in his career were the Speaker in Die Zauberflöte and the Music Master in Ariadne auf Naxos.

Shirley-Quirk had equal success as a recital and concert singer. He was highly regarded for his interpretation of the major choral works of Bach and Elgar and sang Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn on many concerts in Europe, North America, and Australia. His recitals usually included songs by his mentor Benjamin Britten as well as those of Vaughan Williams and Butterworth.

John Shirley-Quirk's lyric baritone voice, while not large, commanded a wide dynamic and expressive range; he had a wonderful sense of phrasing. It was as an interpreter that he was best known; his intellectual curiousity allowed him to explore the inner world of the works he sang. His recordings, particularly of the works of Benjamin Britten, document his fine artistry. In 1975 he was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Read less
Browse 1-25 of 125 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Elgar: Dream of Gerontius / Boult, Baker, Pears, Shirley-Quirk, London Philharmonic [DVD]
    Label: Ica Classics   Catalog: 5140 Release Date: 10/28/2016   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Sir Edward Elgar
    Performer:  Dame Janet Baker,  Peter Pears,  John Shirley-Quirk
    Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  London Philharmonic Choir
    DVD: $37.49
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  • 2.
    100 Best Classics
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 556480 Release Date: 08/05/2016   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Maurice Ravel,  George Frideric Handel,  Antonio Vivaldi  ... 
    Performer:  Yehudi Menuhin,  Barry Tuckwell,  Mikhail Rudy,  Maria-Joao Pires  ... 
    Conductor:  Nikolaus Harnoncourt,  Kent Nagano,  Sir Thomas Beecham,  Alberto Lysy  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Camerata Lysy,  St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $18.99
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  • 3.
    50 Best Classics
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 556482 Release Date: 08/05/2016   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Maurice Ravel,  George Frideric Handel,  Antonio Vivaldi  ... 
    Performer:  Yehudi Menuhin,  Barry Tuckwell,  Mikhail Rudy,  Maria-Joao Pires  ... 
    Conductor:  Nikolaus Harnoncourt,  Kent Nagano,  Sir Thomas Beecham,  Alberto Lysy  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Camerata Lysy,  St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $12.99
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  • 4.
    Handel: The Great Oratorios
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002522302 Release Date: 07/29/2016   Number of Discs: 41
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel
    Performer:  Ian Partridge,  Emma Kirkby,  Patrizia Kwella,  Carolyn Watkinson  ... 
    Conductor:  Christopher Hogwood,  John Eliot Gardiner,  Trevor Pinnock,  Harry Christophers  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of Ancient Music,  English Baroque Soloists,  Westminster Cathedral Boys Choir  ... 
    On sale! $103.98
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  • 5.
    Andre Previn conducts Vaughan Williams
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 88875126952 Release Date: 05/27/2016   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Ralph Vaughan Williams
    Performer:  Heather Harper,  John Shirley-Quirk,  James Buswell,  John Fletcher  ... 
    Conductor:  André Previn
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Ambrosian Singers
    On sale! $23.98
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  • 6.
    Purcell: Dido & Aeneas / Davis, ASMF
    Label: Pentatone   Catalog: 186230 Release Date: 03/11/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henry Purcell
    Performer:  Delia Wallis,  Josephine Veasey,  Elizabeth Bainbridge,  Helen Donath  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  John Alldis Choir
    SuperAudio CD: $29.99
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  • 7.
    The Decca Sound [Repackaged Edition]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002434502 Release Date: 01/29/2016   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Manuel de Falla,  Claude Debussy,  Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov,  Enrique Granados  ... 
    Performer:  Teresa Berganza,  Alfredo Campoli,  Vladimir Ashkenazy,  Cecilia Bartoli  ... 
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet,  Ataulfo Argenta,  Anatole Fistoulari,  Vladimir Ashkenazy  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $181.49
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  • 8.
    Stravinsky Complete Edition [30-CD Set]
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002398272 Release Date: 10/23/2015   Number of Discs: 30
    Composer:  Igor Stravinsky
    Performer:  Felicity Palmer,  Ian Caley,  Phyllis Bryn-Julson,  John Tomlinson  ... 
    Conductor:  Pierre Boulez,  Riccardo Chailly,  Claudio Abbado,  Gennadi Rozhdestvensky  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra,  Cleveland Orchestra,  BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    On sale! $191.98
    CD: $182.99
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  • 9.
    The CBSO Years / Rattle
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 552758 Release Date: 10/09/2015   Number of Discs: 52
    Composer:  Leos Janácek,  Benjamin Britten,  Kurt Weill,  Ralph Vaughan Williams  ... 
    Performer:  Felicity Palmer,  Ameral Gunson,  John Mitchinson,  Malcolm King  ... 
    Conductor:  Simon Rattle
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra,  City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus,  Christ Church Cathedral Choir Men and Boys  ... 
    CD: $126.99
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  • 10.
    Handel Edition
    Label: Brilliant Classics   Catalog: 95050 Release Date: 09/25/2015   Number of Discs: 65
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel,  Anonymous
    Performer:  Micaela Comberti,  Lucy Carolan,  Alison Bury,  Susan Sheppard  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmut Koch,  Max Pommer,  Nicol Matt,  Sir David Willcocks  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto Cologne,  L'Ecole d'Orphée,  Harmonices Mundi  ... 
    CD: $138.99
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  • 11.
    Choral Masterpieces
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 2564614351 Release Date: 05/12/2015   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Antonio Vivaldi,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  George Frideric Handel,  Gregorio Allegri  ... 
    Performer:  Gerald Finley,  David Bell,  John Shirley-Quirk,  Heather Harper  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks,  Sir Charles Mackerras,  Stephen Cleobury,  Franz Welser-Möst  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  Academy of Ancient Music,  Philip Jones Brass Ensemble
    On sale! $13.98
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  • 12.
    British Music / Groves
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 2564614724 Release Date: 04/14/2015   Number of Discs: 24
    Composer:  Sir Edward Elgar,  Eric Coates,  Thomas Augustine Arne,  Henry Walford Davies  ... 
    Performer:  Noel Rawsthorne,  Anne Collins,  Patricia Hogan,  Claudia Lindsey  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Charles Groves,  Sir Charles Mackerras
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra,  Liverpool Chorus,  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    On sale! $75.98
    CD: $74.49
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  • 13.
    Pierre Boulez - 20th Century
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002250902 Release Date: 02/10/2015   Number of Discs: 44
    Composer:  Béla Bartók,  Alban Berg,  Harrison Birtwistle,  Pierre Boulez  ... 
    Performer:  John Tomlinson,  John Aler,  Krystian Zimerman,  Leif Ove Andsnes  ... 
    Conductor:  Pierre Boulez,  Martyn Brabbins
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra,  Chicago Symphony Chorus,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $279.49
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  • 14.
    Pierre Boulez: The Complete Columbia Album Collection
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 301333 Release Date: 11/24/2014   Number of Discs: 67
    Composer:  Béla Bartók,  Alexander Scriabin,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Alban Berg  ... 
    Performer:  Karl Dönch,  Isabel Strauss,  Walter Berry,  Fritz Uhl  ... 
    Conductor:  Pierre Boulez,  Anton Webern
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic,  Camerata Singers,  Schola Cantorum New York  ... 
    On sale!
    CD: $213.49
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  • 15.
    John Tavener: Akhmatova Requiem
    Label: Nmc   Catalog: 208 Release Date: 11/11/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Tavener
    Performer:  Phyllis Bryn-Julson,  John Shirley-Quirk,  Elise Ross
    Conductor:  Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Nash Ensemble
    CD: $18.99
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  • 16.
    Phase 4 Stereo - Stereo Concert Series
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002188302 Release Date: 10/27/2014   Number of Discs: 41
    Composer:  John Philip Sousa,  Charles A. Zimmerman,  Francis S. Van Boskerck,  George Norton  ... 
    Performer:  Stanley Black,  David Parkhouse,  Alan Loveday,  Robert Merrill  ... 
    Conductor:  Rodney Bashford,  Stanley Black,  Bernard Herrmann,  Edward Downes  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Grenadier Guards Band,  London Festival Orchestra,  London Festival Recording Ensemble  ... 
    CD: $168.99
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  • 17.
    Great Performances Recorded Live at Covent Garden 1955-1997
    Label: Opus Arte   Catalog: 9024 Release Date: 09/30/2014   Number of Discs: 32
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi,  Giacomo Puccini,  Gaetano Donizetti,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  ... 
    Performer:  Marian Nowakowski,  Michael Langdon,  Raymond Nilsson,  Otakar Kraus  ... 
    Conductor:  Rafael Kubelik,  Sir Alexander Gibson,  Rudolf Kempe,  Carlo Maria Giulini  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus
    CD: $118.99
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  • 18.
    Rachmaninov: The Complete Works
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002145102 Release Date: 09/23/2014   Number of Discs: 32
    Composer:  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Franz Schubert,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Georges Bizet  ... 
    Performer:  Vladimir Ashkenazy,  André Previn,  Peter Jablonski,  Mikhail Pletnev  ... 
    Conductor:  André Previn,  Vladimir Ashkenazy,  Kiril Kondrashin,  Stanislaw Wislocki  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Goldner String Quartet,  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $115.99
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  • 19.
    The Argo Years / Marriner, Academy of St Martin in the Fields
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002081902 Release Date: 06/03/2014   Number of Discs: 28
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel,  Arcangelo Corelli,  Giuseppe Torelli,  Pietro Antonio Locatelli  ... 
    Performer:  Gwynne Howell,  Philip Langridge,  Anna Reynolds,  Elly Ameling  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chorus,  Philip Jones Brass Ensemble
    CD: $98.99
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  • 20.
    Handel: Messiah / Harper, Watts, Davis [Blu-ray Audio]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002009546 Release Date: 03/25/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel
    Performer:  Heather Harper,  Helen Watts,  John Shirley-Quirk,  John Wakefield
    Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Chorus,  London Symphony Orchestra
    Blu-ray Audio: $21.99
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  • 21.
    Richard Strauss: Complete Operas
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002013902 Release Date: 03/25/2014   Number of Discs: 33
    Composer:  Richard Strauss
    Performer:  Anneliese Rothenberger,  Cäcilie Reich,  Eva Maria Rogner,  Ira Malaniuk  ... 
    Conductor:  Joseph Keilberth,  Giuseppe Sinopoli,  Karl Böhm,  Sir Georg Solti  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian State Opera Orchestra,  Bavarian State Opera Chorus,  Dresden Staatskapelle  ... 
    On sale! $175.98
    CD: $167.49
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  • 22.
    Pierre Boulez Conducts Schoenberg
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 42957 Release Date: 01/01/2014   Number of Discs: 11
    Composer:  Arnold Schoenberg
    Performer:  Siegmund Nimsgern,  Kenneth Bowen,  Ian Partridge,  Paul Hudson  ... 
    Conductor:  Pierre Boulez
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra,  BBC Singers,  New York Philharmonic  ... 
    CD: $19.99
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  • 23.
    Carlo Maria Giulini: The London Years
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 93739 Release Date: 12/03/2013   Number of Discs: 17
    Composer:  Antonín Dvorák,  Modest Mussorgsky,  Benjamin Britten,  César Franck  ... 
    Performer:  Sheila Armstrong,  Anna Reynolds,  Robert Tear,  John Shirley-Quirk
    Conductor:  Carlo Maria Giulini
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra,  New Philharmonia Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $64.49
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  • 24.
    Decca Sound - The Analogue Years
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001934702 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 54
    Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Anton Bruckner,  Arnold Schoenberg,  Giuseppe Verdi  ... 
    Performer:  Pascal Rogé,  Dame Joan Sutherland,  Marilyn Horne,  Luciano Pavarotti  ... 
    Conductor:  Charles Dutoit,  Sir Georg Solti,  Bernard Haitink,  Horst Stein  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,  Chicago Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $181.49
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  • 25.
    Britten the Performer - Complete Decca Recordings
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001922102 Release Date: 10/22/2013   Number of Discs: 27
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Henry Purcell,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Franz Joseph Haydn  ... 
    Performer:  Adrian Thompson,  John Tobin,  Jenny Hill,  Robert Tear  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Wandsworth School Boys' Choir,  Wandsworth School Choir  ... 
    CD: $98.49
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