Alexander Goehr is a composer for whom the conventional labels of new music seem increasingly inadequate. A latent nonconformism is already suggested by the essential biographical facts. He was born in Berlin in 1932, son of the conductor and Schoenberg pupil Walter Goehr. Still in his early twenties, he emerged as a key figure in the celebrated ‘Manchester School’ of post-war British composers. In 1955-56 he joined Oliver Messiaen’s masterclass in Paris. Thereafter, he worked as a BBC producer and broadcaster, and was a director of the Music Theatre Ensemble. In 1971 he was appointed Professor of Music at Leeds University, and was subsequently appointed to the chair at Cambridge in 1976. Background apart, however, the source of Goehr’s heterogeneous yet single-minded development lies in a questing musical intelligence and a special gift for elaboration, transformation and synthesis. The artistic imperative is for a step-by-step progression, wherever it might lead, from what is familiar to what is genuinely new.
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