one of the most successful composers of his generation

Joseph Phibbs was born in London, and studied at The Purcell School, King’s College London, and Cornell University. His teachers have included Param Vir, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, and Steven Stucky.

Described recently by BBC Music Magazine as “one of the most successful composers of his generation”, his works have been premiered by some of the world’s leading conductors, including Esa-Pekka Salonen, Leonard Slatkin, Vassily Petrenko, Gianandrea Noseda, Sakari Oramo, and Edward Gardner.  Rivers to the Sea, his largest orchestral work to date, was performed to widespread critical acclaim in 2012 under Esa-Pekka Salonen, and broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 from the Royal Festival Hall. It has since received numerous performances both in the UK and abroad, winning the orchestral category of the 2013 British Composer Awards. A more recent work entitled Partita (a joint BBC/Koussevitzky Music Foundation Award commission) was premiered in May 2016 at the Barbican Centre under the orchestra’s Chief Conductor Sakari Oramo.


Following its London premiere on 5 November 2017 at Royal Festival Hall (cond. Edward Gardner), his first large scale concerto – commissioned by clarinettist Mark van de Wiel, Philharmonia Orchestra, and Malmö Live Konserthus – was described by Hugh Canning in The Sunday Times as “a new concerto that will surely be performed all over the world”. He has also composed concertos for Evelyn Glennie (Bar Veloce), Sarah Williamson (Concertino for clarinet, strings, and harp), and Nicholas Daniel (Towards Purcell, a concertante work for oboe, horn, harp).

Major orchestras and ensembles to have performed his works include the London Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, for which he has written five major works to date, including In Camera and Lumina (commissioned for the BBC Last Night of the Proms, and published by Faber Music). A CD of his chamber music was released by NMC to critical acclaim in 2013, with additional recordings due for release in 2018.

His instrumental music has been premiered by, among others, London Sinfonietta, Chroma, Belcea Quartet, Orchestra of the Swan, Navarra Quartet, Britten Sinfonia, Duo Guitartes, Lisa Milne, Michael Chance, James Bowman, Helen-Jane Howells, Iestyn Davies, Lesley-Jane Rogers, Tim Mead, James Boyd, and Tamsin Waley-Cohen, and has featured at festivals including Aldeburgh, Three Choirs, Bath, City of London, Hampstead, Spitalfields, Exon Singers (2010 composer-in-residence), Bonn Beethovenfest, Presteigne (2011 Featured Composer), Cheltenham, Rye, and Little Missenden. His String Quartet No.1, commissioned and premiered by the Piatti Quartet, recently received its US premiere at the Tanglewood Festival to widespread critical acclaim. Since its premiere in 2015, a large-scale work for viola and piano entitled Letters from Warsaw has been performed throughout Europe by its commissioner Krzysztof Chorzelski, on whose family background the work is based. Large-scale choral works include Rainland (commissioned by Phillip Scott), Tenebrae for soprano, choir and orchestra (with Lesley-Jane Rogers and St Albans Bach Choir/Andrew Lucas; published by OUP), Choral Songs of Homage (commissioned for the Britten centenary), and Shadows of Sleep (premiered at Snape Maltings under Peter Nardone). His smaller choral works are performed regularly, most recently an unaccompanied Missa Brevis for upper voices, premiered under Matthew Owens (Wells Cathedral). A set of six preludes for pianist Andrew Matthews-Owen (a Richard Thomas Foundation commission) was recorded last summer.

Future commissions include a work for Harry Christophers and The Sixteen, a chamber opera (Juliana, libretto by Laurie Slade) for Nova Music Opera (Presteigne/Cheltenham festivals in July 2018, cond. George Vass), a work for the Barbican Piano Trio and narrator (to a text by Kevin Graal), and a third String Quartet for the Belcea Quartet, to be premiered in US in 2018.

Since 2008 Phibbs has been a director of The Britten Estate Limited, and has taught at various universities, including King’s College London (2011-14) and Cambridge (2014-15). His music is published by Ricordi and Boosey and Hawkes (choral works).

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