John McCabe

John McCabe - © 2012 Gareth Arnold

born on 21/4/1939 in Huyton, Merseyde, England, United Kingdom

died on 13/2/2015

John McCabe (composer)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

John McCabe CBE (born 21 April 1939) is an English composer and pianist.


John McCabe was born in Huyton, Liverpool, Merseyside. A prolific composer from an early age, he had written thirteen symphonies by the time he was eleven (Rickards 2001). After studies in Manchester and Munich he embarked upon a career as a composer and virtuoso pianist (he still tours internationally as a recitalist). He has worked in almost every genre, though large-scale forms lie at the heart of his catalogue with seven symphonies, fifteen concertante works and eight ballet scores to his name. Like many composers of his generation, McCabe experimented with serialism in his early career but his mature style is characterised by a dramatic post-tonalism, and vivid orchestrations.

He first became known as a pianist, playing Bax, Corigliano, Haydn, Hindemith, Rawsthorne, and Webern.

As a composer, he first gained attention with the orchestral song cycle Notturni ed Alba (1970). He has written seven acknowledged symphonies (1965-2007), a number of ballets, string quartets, and solo instrumental music (particularly for the piano). However, it is for his concerti that he is perhaps best known. He has written four for his own instrument, the piano (1966-76), and three for one or two violins (1959, 1980, 2003) as well as one each for viola (1962), harpsichord (1968), oboe d'amore (1972), clarinet (1977), orchestra (1982), trumpet (1987) and flute (1990), and double concertos for viola and cello (1965) and clarinet and oboe (1988).
He has a developing association with the Presteigne Festival.

John McCabe was made CBE in 1985 for his services to music (Rickards 2001). He has also spent a considerable amount of time teaching. Among his notable pupils is composer Gary Kulesha.

Career highlights

  • 1974-6 - recorded the complete Piano Sonatas of Haydn (reissued later on CD) for Decca/London.
  • 1983 - awarded CBE for services to music.
  • 1984 - Rainforest I commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, New York.
  • 1995 - premiere of Edward II with Stuttgart Ballet, choreographed by David Bintley.
  • 2003 - Les martinets noirs commissioned by Amsterdam Sinfonietta.
  • 2004 - received Distinguished Musician Award from the Incorporated Society of Musicians.

Key works

  • Variations on a theme by Karl Amadeus Hartmann (1964; orchestra)
  • Symphony No. 1, Elegy (1965; orchestra)
  • Notturni ed Alba (1970; soprano, orchestra)
  • Symphony No. 2 (1971; orchestra)
  • Chagall Windows (1974; orchestra)
  • Piano Concerto No. 3 (1977)
  • Symphony No. 3, Hommages (1978; orchestra)
  • Magnificat in C (1979)
  • String Quartet No. 3 (1979)
  • Concerto for Orchestra (1982)
  • String Quartet No. 4 (1982)
  • Cloudcatcher Fells (1982; brass band)
  • Haydn Variations (1983; piano; dedicated to and premiered by Philip Fowke)
  • Fire at Durilgai (1988; orchestra)
  • String Quartet No .5 (1989)
  • Flute Concerto (1990)
  • Tenebrae (1993; piano)
  • Symphony No. 4, Of Time and the River (1994; orchestra)
  • Edward II (1995; ballet)
  • Pilgrim (1998; double string orchestra)
  • Arthur Parts 1 & 2 (1999 and 2001; ballet)
  • Woman by the Sea (2001; piano, string quartet)
  • Labyrinth [Symphony No.7] (2007; orchestra)


  • Edward II - Hyperion CDA 67135/6
  • Six Minute Symphony; Concertante Variations of Nicholas Maw; Piano Concerto No 2; Sonata on a Motet - Dutton CDLX 7133
  • Symphony Of Time and the River; Flute Concerto - Hyperion CDA67089
  • Dance Prelude for Oboe d'Amore and Piano - Amoris Edition AR 1003 - written for Jennifer Paull (1972)
  • McCabe: Concerto for Orchestra & The Chagall Windows; Arnold: Philharmonic Concerto - London Philharmonic Orchestra LPO 0023


  • Craggs, Stewart R. 1991. John McCabe: A Bio-Bibliography. Bio-Bibliographies in Music, no. 32. Westport: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-26445-7.
  • Foreman, Ronald Lewis Edmund (ed.). 1975. British Music Now: A Guide to the Work of Younger Composers. London: Elek.
  • Kennedy, Michael (2006). The Oxford Dictionary of Music, second edition, revised. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-861459-4.
  • Larner, Gerald. 1969. "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe". The Musical Times 110, no. 1514 (April): 372.
  • Matthew-Walker, Robert. 1999. "John McCabe at 60". Musical Opinion 122, no. 1417 (Spring): 13839.
  • Maycock, Robert. 1989. "Variations on a Form: John McCabe's String Quartets". The Musical Times 130, no. 1757 (July): 38688.
  • Odam, George (ed.). 2008. Landscapes of the Mind: The Music of John McCabe, with a foreword by Vernon Handley. Guildhall School of Music & Drama Research Studies, no. 6. London: Guildhall School of Music and Drama. ISBN 978-0-7546-5816-0.
  • Rickards, Guy. 1999. "The Piano and John McCabe". British Music: The Journal of the British Music Society 21:3547.
  • Rickards, Guy. 2001. "McCabe, John". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.

External links

  • Official Website
  • John McCabe's homepage at Novello & Co
  • Youtube performance of Partita for Cello
This page was last modified 19.11.2013 21:55:41

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