was born in Coventry in 1943. He received formal musical training at the Birmingham School of Music and the Royal Academy of Music. In 1968 he was awarded the Mendelssohn Scholarship, which enabled him to continue his studies in Amsterdam with Ton de Leeuw, and the following year obtained a scholarship to study with Klaus Huber at the Basel Conservatoire.
At the 1968 Gaudeamus Composers' Competition in Holland he was awarded a prize for Sonatas for String Quartet and this success was repeated in 1969 and 1970 with Epicycle and Missa Brevis. The Italian section of the ISCM at its 1972 competition gave Ferneyhough an honorable mention (second place) for Firecycle Beta and two years later a special prize for Time and Motion Study III which was considered the best work submitted in all categories.
Ferneyhough has also been the recipient of a Heinrich Strobel Foundation bursary from South West German Radio (1973), a German Academic Exchange award for 1976-77 and the Koussevitsky award for Transit which was judged to be the best contemporary work recorded in 1978. He was made Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1984 and was elected to membership of the Berlin Akademie der Künste in 1996. His compositional manuscripts and sketch materials form part of the permanent collection of the Paul Sacher Foundation, Basel.
From 1973 to 1986 Ferneyhough taught composition at the Musikhochschule in Freiburg, Germany. Between 1984 and 1987 he regularly gave master classes at the Civica Scuola di Musica, Milan. In 1986-87 he held the position of principal composition teacher at the Royal Conservatoire of The Hague. He has been a Professor of Music at the University of California, San Diego since 1987.
Ferneyhough has lectured at at the biennial Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt since 1976; between 1984 and 1996 he was the composition course co-ordinator. Other academic engagements include Guest Professorships at the Royal Conservatoire, Stockholm and the University of Chicago, and invitations to lecture at the ConservatoireNational Suprieur de Paris and several North American universities and colleges. He has also directed courses in composition at the International Bartók Seminar, Szombathely, Hungary and Akiyoshidai, Japan and leads an annual master class at the Fondation Royaumont, near Paris.
Ferneyhough's music has been performed throughout the world and has been featured at all the major European festivals of contemporary music: Berlin, Brussels, Darmstadt, Donaueschingen, Glasgow, Helsinki, Holland, Huddersfield, La Rochelle, London (Almeida), Metz, Milan, Middelburg, Paris (Festival d'Automne), Royan, Strasbourg, Venice and Warsaw.
Future projects include an ensemble work comissioned by the BBC (Maison Noires for 22 players), a Fifth String Quartet an an opera project based on the death of Walter Benjamin.
Most of his works are available on CD; his string quartets have been recorded by the Arditti Quartet and a CD of solo works played by members of the Australian ensemble Elision is soon to appear.
Edited from Peters Editon.
Lemma-Icon-Epigram was composed in 1981 for the Italian pianist
Massimiliano Damerini. The title refers to a poetic form (the Emblema)
from 16th century italy. It's first section (Lemma) is essentially linear
in its character with a multitude of motivic gestures. These ideas are
developed to such an extreme that they become extremely condensed and
start running into and out of each other. The elements are always on the
edge of disappearing over the edge of discourse, as the labyrinth
Ferneyhough creates gets more and more complicated. This is of
transcendental improvisatory character. The second section (Icon) comes
as a shock. Many loud static chords are presented, which represent
isolated objects. These objects attempt to break away from its strict
frame while building up ferocious intensity. The composer's plan was to
create the idea of a temporal sun moving across a fixed landscape with
objects placed in it. The shadows of these objects are reflected by
gestural interruptions. The final section (Epigram) is a summation of all
the previous elements. The writing becomes extremely thick with multiple
layers of energy as the hands try to disengage themselves from each other.
The speed of presentation in this piece is quite high as there is always a
sense of information overload. The listener is constantly "behind" the
flow of events and trying to catch up. Ferneyhough's own instructions to
listeners is such: every attempt should be made to retain the sensation of
multiple realities which the layerings provide. ---NOTES by Winston Choi
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