Jonathan Harvey was born in Warwickshire in 1939. He was a chorister at St Michael’s College, Tenbury and later a major music scholar at St John’s College, Cambridge. He gained doctorates from the universities of Glasgow and Cambridge and (on the advice of Benjamin Britten) also studied privately with Erwin Stein and Hans Keller. He was a Harkness Fellow at Princeton (1969–1970).
An invitation from Boulez to work at IRCAM in the early 1980s has so far resulted in eight realisations at the Institute, and two for the Ensemble Intercontemporain, including the celebrated tape piece Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco, bhakti for ensemble and electronics, Advaya for cello, live electronics and pre-recorded sounds and String Quartet No. 4, with live electronics. Harvey has also composed for most other genres: orchestra (Tranquil Abiding, White as Jasmine and Madonna of Winter and Spring – the latter performed by the Berliner Philharmoniker and Simon Rattle in 2006), chamber (four string quartets, Soleil Noir/Chitra, and Death of Light, Light of Death, for instance) as well as works for solo instruments.
He has written many widely-performed unaccompanied works for choir – as well as the large-scale cantata for the BBC Proms Millennium, Mothers shall not Cry (2000). His church opera Passion and Resurrection (l981) was the subject of a BBC television film, and has received twelve subsequent performances. His opera Inquest of Love, commissioned by ENO, was premiered under the baton of Mark Elder in 1993 and repeated at Théâtre de la Monnaie, Brussels in 1994. His third opera, Wagner Dream, commissioned by Nederlandse Opera in association with the Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg, the Holland Festival and IRCAM, was premiered to great acclaim in 2007.
2008 saw the premiere of Messages (for the Rundfunkchor Berlin and the Berlin Philharmoniker) and Speakings (co-commission with BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, IRCAM and Radio France). Harvey is now in constant demand from a host of international organisations, attracting commissions far into the future, and his music is extensively played and toured by the major ensembles of our time (Musikfabrik, Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Intercontemporain, ASKO, Nieuw Ensemble of Amsterdam and Ictus Ensemble of Brussels to name but a few). His music has been showcased at Strasbourg Musica, Ars Musica Brussels, Musica Nova Helsinki, the Acanthes and Agora festivals, and at many centres for contemporary music.
He has honorary doctorates from the universities of Southampton, Sussex, Bristol and Huddersfield, is a Member of Academia Europaea, and in 1993 was awarded the prestigious Britten Award for composition. Harvey was Professor of Music at Sussex University between 1977 and 1993 where he is currently an Honorary Professor. He was Professor of Music at Stanford University (US) between 1995 and 2000, Visiting Professor of Music at Imperial College, London and is an Honorary Fellow of St. John’s College, Cambridge. Harvey was Composer in Association with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra from 2005–2008.