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Biography of

Thea Musgrave

27 may 1928 (Barnton) -
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Thea Musgrave (b. 27 May 1928) is a Scottish composer of opera and classical music.



Born in Barnton, Edinburgh, Thea Musgrave studied at the University of Edinburgh and in Paris as a pupil of Nadia Boulanger. In 1970 she became Guest Professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, a position which confirmed her increasing involvement with the musical life of the United States, where she has lived since 1972. She has received the Koussevitsky Award (1974) as well as two Guggenheim Fellowships (1974/5 and 1982/3). From 1987 to 2002 she was Distinguished Professor at Queen’s College, City University of New York. She holds honorary degrees from Old Dominion University (Virginia), Glasgow University, Smith College and the New England Conservatoire in Boston. In 2002 she was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List.

Among Musgrave’s earlier orchestral works, the Concerto for Orchestra of 1967 and the Concerto for Horn of 1971 display the composer’s ongoing fascination with ‘dramatic-abstract’ musical ideas. More recent works continue the idea though sometimes in a more programmatic way: such as the oboe concerto Helios of 1994, in which the soloist represents the sun god. Another frequent source of inspiration is the visual arts - The Seasons took its initial inspiration from a visit to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, while Turbulent Landscapes (commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra) depicts a series of paintings by JMW Turner. Musgrave has written more than a dozen operas and other music theatre works, many taking a historical figure as their central character, among them Mary Queen of Scots (1977), Harriet Tubman (Harriet, the Woman called Moses, 1984), Simón Bolívar (1993) and Pontalba (2003). Her music has been recorded on the NMC, Bridge and Lyrita record labels.

She is currently based in the United States.

Career milestones

  • 1950-54: Studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris
  • 1958: Attended Tanglewood Festival and studied with Aaron Copland.
  • 1971: Married American violist and opera conductor Peter Mark and moved to the United States.
  • 1987 - 2002: Distinguished Professor, City University of New York, Queens College.
  • 1995: Premiere of the opera Simón Bolívar at the Virginia Opera.
  • 2003: Premiere of Turbulent Landscapes by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
  • 2008: Eightieth birthday marked by premieres of Points of View, Green, Cantilena, Taking Turns and other performances.


Major works

  • Chamber Concerto No 2 (1966; chamber ensemble)
  • Night Music (1968; for chamber orchestra - J.W. Chester/Edition Wilhelm Hansen London Ltd.)[1]
  • Concerto for Orchestra (1967)
  • Clarinet Concerto (1969)[2]
  • Concerto for Horn (1971)
  • Viola Concerto (1973)
  • Rorate Coeli (1973; choir)
  • Orfeo (1975; solo flute & tape or strings)
  • Pierrot (1985; cl/vn/pf)
  • Song of the Enchanter (1990; orchestra) (commissioned to honour the 125th anniversary of the birth of Jean Sibelius) [3]
  • Helios (1994; oboe concerto)
  • Songs for a Winter’s Evening (1995; soprano, orchestra)
  • Phoenix Rising (1997, orchestra)
  • Aurora (1999; string orchestra)
  • Turbulent Landscapes (2003; orchestra)
  • Two's Company (2005; concerto for oboe and percussion)
  • Cantilena (2008; oboe quartet)
  • Green (2008; string orchestra)


  • The Abbot of Drimock (1955)
  • Marko the Miser (1962)
  • The Decision (1965)
  • The Voice of Ariadne (1973)
  • Mary, Queen of Scots (1977)
  • A Christmas Carol (1979)
  • An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (1981)
  • Harriet, the Woman called 'Moses (1984)
  • Simón Bolívar (1992)
  • Pontalba (2003)


  1. ^ Kennan, Kent, Grantham, Donald The Technique of Orchestration, 3rd. ed. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1983 pg.340
  2. ^ "Clarinet Concerto -- Thea Musgrave, Composer". Thea Musgrave web site. Retrieved 2007-01-31. 
  3. ^ Song of the Enchanter - Thea Musgrave, composer

External links

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Thea Musgrave. Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.
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