Simon Holt was born in Bolton, Lancashire in 1958. After completing a foundation course at Bolton Art College, he went on to study composition with Anthony Gilbert at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. He is a Fellow of the Royal Northern College of Music and of the University of Bolton. As a young composer, the late Michael Vyner, then artistic director of the London Sinfonietta, commissioned Kites (1983). In 1985 he was featured composer of the Bath International Festival at which the late William Mann was the artistic director. Holt's relationship with the London Sinfonietta has continued with a steady stream of performances and premieres, including Ballad of the Black Sorrow (1988), eco-pavan (1998) and Sueños (2006) for baritone and ensemble, performed by Roderick Williams and the London Sinfonietta conducted by Thierry Fischer in London and Madrid. Simon Holt's output for the chamber ensemble is large, including eight pieces written for the Nash Ensemble. Holt has developed a hugely successful relationship with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, who recorded a second portrait CD on the NMC label, released in 2004, featuring Kites (1983), Lilith (1990), eco-pavan (1998), Boots of Lead (2002) and feet of clay (2003).
To date, Holt has been commissioned to write three major orchestral pieces for the BBC Proms. In 1987, John Drummond commissioned Syrensong for the BBC Symphony Orchestra, later followed by the viola concerto Walking with the River's Roar, premiered by Nobuko Imai and the BBC Philharmonic in 1992. Latterly, Troubled Light for the BBC NOW in 2008.
Simon Holt has found inspiration in, amongst other things, the world of Greek myth. His Icarus Trilogy culminated in 1995 with the premiere of his cello concerto Daedalus Remembers, commissioned by the Cheltenham festival for Rohan de Saram and Sinfonia 21 conducted by Daniel Harding. In addition, he feels a great affinity for the writing of Federico Garcia Lorca whose dark, passionate and enigmatic texts have much in common with Holt's own sound world. He has set Lorca's texts in his song cycle Canciones and his first opera The Nightingale's to Blame. This was a commission from Opera North, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, and the Munich Biennale, and the premiere formed the focal point of a major retrospective at the 1998 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. Simon Holt's soprano and orchestra piece, Sunrise' yellow noise (2000) for the city of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Lisa Milne under Sir Simon Rattle went on to tour the Cologne Triennale in May 2000, and was the subject of a one-hour South Bank Show TV documentary. In 2001, Simon Holt received Le Prix de la Fondation Prince Pierre, Monaco for this piece.
Holt's large-scale pieces include the violin concerto, witness to a snow miracle, performed in London and Bonn by Vivianne Hager and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and judged Best Orchestral Work at the 2006 British Composer Awards; and a percussion concerto for Colin Currie entitled a table of noises, which was premiered by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in May 2008 and also won the Orchestral Award at the British Composer Awards (2009). Troubled Light was premiered at the BBC Proms also in 2008, with Thierry Fischer conducting the BBC NOW.
Since becoming the Composer in Association at the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, he has written a number of successful orchestral works including St Vitus in the Kettle, Centauromachy and The Yellow Wallpaper.
The music of Simon Holt is published exclusively by Chester Music Limited.
Faculties / departments: Composition