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Professor Judith Weir


Judith Weir Position: Visiting Distinguished Professor Email:
Telephone: +44 (0)29 208 74816 (School Office)
Fax: +44(0)29 208 74379
Extension: N/A
Location: 33 Corbett Road (Annexe)

Judith Weir is one of the most distinguished British composers. Her music has been performed, broadcast and recorded by artists of international renown. She is the recipent of honorary doctorates from the Universities of Aberdeen (1995) and Glasgow (2005), Queen's University, Belfast (2001) and King's College, London (2007). She was appointed a CBE in 1995. She has received many prizes and awards for her compositions including the South Bank Show Classical Music Award (2001) for We Are Shadows and the British Composer Award in the vocal category (2004) for The Voice of Desire.

Judith Weir is the composer and librettist of a series of operas (King Harald’s Saga,The Black Spider, A Night at the Chinese Opera, The Vanishing Bridegroom andBlond Eckbert) which have been frequently performed in Europe and America. She has written concert works for some notable singers, including Jane Manning, Dawn Upshaw, Jessye Norman and Alice Coote. Together with film director Margaret Williams, she has written music and screenplay for several film operas, including Scipio’s Dream, Hello Dolly, and Armida.

During a period in the 1990s as resident composer with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, she wrote several works for orchestra and chorus (including Forest, Storm and We are Shadows) which were premiered by the orchestra’s then principal conductor, Simon Rattle. Orchestras around the world have played her music, and she has been commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra (Music Untangled and Natural History) the Minnesota Orchestra (The Welcome Arrival of Rain) and the London Sinfonietta (Tiger under the Table).

Folk music from the British Isles and beyond has influenced an extensive group of string and piano compositions written for Domus, the Florestan Trio and the Schubert Ensemble. Her longtime collaborators include storyteller Vayu Naidu, with whom she has performed music and folk tales in England and India. Her growing choral catalogue began with Illuminare,Jerusalem (1985) a carol first heard in the King’s College Cambridge Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.

Judith Weir was born into a Scottish family in 1954, but grew up near London. She was an oboe player, performing with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, and had a few composition lessons with John Tavener during her schooldays. She attended Cambridge University, where her composition teacher was Robin Holloway. She spent several years as a community musician in rural southern England, followed by a period based in Scotland, teaching at Glasgow University and RSAMD. Since the 1990s she has lived in south London. She was artistic director of Spitalfields Festival (1995-2000) and has continued to teach, presently at Cardiff University, where she has been a Visiting Professor since 2006. She received the Queen’s Medal for Music in 2007 and the ISM’s Distinguished Musician Award in 2010.

Judith Weir’s most recent major work is her opera Miss Fortune, which received its first performances at the 2011 Bregenz Festival, directed by Chen Shi-Zheng and designed by Tom Pye. This production opened at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in March 2012. For the 2012 BBC Proms, she composed What's in the Lake?, a site-specific work for Ai Wei Wei's Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, as part of the John Cage Music Walk. New works for 2013 include Blue-Green Hill (for Boston Musica Viva), The Wild Reeds (for organist Thomas Trotter) and a new string orchestra work for the 2013 Aldeburgh Festival.

Judith Weir is published by Chester Novello. For a full biography, list of works, programme notes and discography, visit her web pages at Chester Novello.

See also:

  • Wright, David C. H., 'Judith Weir', The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Second Edition (London: Macmillan, 2001), vol.27, 246-7
  • Clements, Andrew, 'Judith Weir', The New Grove Dictionary of Opera (London: Macmillan, 1992)


Selected Compositions

* UK Premiere
** World Premiere

CONCRETE for chorus and orchestra (2007); **BBC Symphony Orchestra, Chorus and Singers, conducted by Martyn Brabbins, Barbican Centre, London, 20 January 2008

Winter Song for chamber orchestra (17') (2007); **Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Oliver Knussen, Glasgow, 14 December 2007

Blond Eckbert (pocket version), opera (60') (2006); **The Opera Group, conducted by Patrick Bailey, Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House, London, 14 June 2007

Armida, opera (50') (2005); **Talise Trevigne, Kenneth Tarver, Continuum Ensemble, conducted by Philip Headlam, Channel 4 Television, 25 December 2005

Vertue for SATB chorus (7') (2005); **The Cardinall's Musick, conducted by Andrew Carwood, Spitalfields Festival, Christ Church, London, 13 June 2005

Psyche for narrator and ensemble (30') (2005); **Vaya Naidu, Sarvar Sabri (tabla), BCMG, Birmingham, 29 April 2005

Piano Trio Two (15') (2004); **Florestan Trio, London, 8 June 2004

The Voice of Desire for mezzo soprano and piano (12') (2003); **Alice Coote, Julius Drake, BBC Proms, RAH, London, 11 August 2003

Tiger under the Table for large ensemble (15') (2002); **Nicholas Hodges (piano), London Sinfonietta, conducted by Thomas Ades, QEH, London, 15 March 2003

Variation 'Thou Tun'st' in Bright Cecilia: Variations on a Theme by Purcell for orchestra (with other composers) (16') (2002): **BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, BBC Proms, RAH, London, 14 September 2002

The welcome arrival of rain for orchestra (16') (2001); **Minnesota Orchestra, conducted by Osmo Vänskä, Minneapolis, 22 January 2003

Piano Quartet (17') (2000); **Schubert Ensemble, Cheltenham Festival, 30 July 2000 for soprano and orchestra (45') (2000); **Jessye Norman (soprano), Orchestra of St Luke's, conducted by David Robertson, Carnegie Hall, New York, 22 March 2000

Natural History for orchestra (17') (1998); **Dawn Upshaw (soprano), Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, Boston, 14 January 1999

Blond Eckbert, opera (75') (1993); **English National Opera, conducted by Siân Edwards, London Coliseum, 20 April 1994

Heroic Strokes of the Bow for chamber orchestra (15') (1992); **Westdeutsche Sinfonie, conducted by Dirk Joeres, Leverkusen, 1992

Music, Untangled for orchestra (7') (1991); **Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood Festival, 3 August, 1991

The Vanishing Bridegroom, opera (90') (1990); **Scottish Opera, Glasgow, 17 October 1990

A Night at the Chinese Opera, opera (110') (1987); **Kent Opera, Cheltenham Festival, 8 July 1987

The Consolations of Scholarship for soprano and ensemble (25') (198); **Linda Hirst (soprano), Lontano, conducted by Odaline de la Martinez, Durham, 5 May 1985

The Art of Touching the Keyboard for piano (10') (1983); **William Howard (piano), 1983

Music for 247 Strings for violin and piano (10') (1981); **Paul Barritt (violin), William Howard (piano), 1981

King Harald's Saga for soprano, singing eight roles (10') (1979); **Jane Manning, Dumfries, 17 May 1979

Selected Recordings

King Harald's Saga, On Buying a Horse,Ox Mountain was Covered by Trees, Scotch Minstrelsy, Songs from the Exotic, A Spanish Liederbooklet, Ständchen, The Voice of Desire: Susan Bickley, Andrew Kennedy, Ailish Tynan, Iain Burnside, on Signum Classics SIG CD 087 (2006)

King Harald's Saga, The Consolations of Scholarship, Musicians Wrestle Everywhere, Piano Concerto: Ensemble X, directed by Steven Stucky and Mark Davis Scatterday, on Albany TROY 803 (2006)

Ardnamurchan Point, Arise! Arise! You Slumbering Sleepers, The Art of Touching the Keyboard, The Bagpiper's String Trio, Distance and Enchantment, El Rey De Francia, I Broke Off a Golden Branch, The King of France, Music for 247 Strings, Piano Concerto, Piano Quartet, Piano Trio: Schubert Ensemble, William Howard, Susan Tomes, Petra Casen, on NMC D090

Blond Eckbert: English National Opera, conducted by Siân Edwards, on Collins Classics CD 14612

King Harald's Saga, The Consolations of Scholarship, Missa del Cid: Linda Hirst, Lontona, conducted by Odaline de la Martinez, on United 88040 CD and Novello Records NVLCD 109


Judith Weir has recently completed CONCRETE, a commission for the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, which will be premiered on Sunday 20 January 2008 during the BBC Telling the Tale Festival at London's Barbican.

Selected Performances

* UK Premiere
** World Premiere


A Night at the Chinese Opera, Scottish Opera, Glasgow 11, 19 April, 20, 22 May 2008 (then touring)

Judith Weir: Telling the Tale, Barbican Centre, London, 18-20 January 2008

Winter Song**; Scottish Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Oliver Knussen, Glasgow, 14 December 2007 (Edinburgh, 15 December 2007)

The Voice of Desire; Alice Coote and Graham Johnson, BBC Proms, Cadogan Hall, London, 16 July 2007

Music, Untangled; Melbourne SO, conducted by James MacMillan, Melbourne, 9 May 2007

Heroic Strokes of the Bow; Tapiola Sinfonietta, Espoo, Finland, 9 March 2007

Songs from the Exotic and The Voice of Desire*; Leslie Leon and Ramina Lampsatis, 'Unerhörte Musik', Berlin, 5 December 2006

Blond Eckbert (pocket version)**; The Opera Group, conducted by Patrick Bailey, Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House, London, 14-15, 17 June 2006 (then touring)