Award-winning composer Michael Nyman has been honoured with the annual Classical Music Award at the Ivor Novello awards yesterday at Grosvenor House. This award marks his distinguished career as one of Britain’s most successful composers. His iconic soundtrack to Jane Campion’s film The Piano sold over three million copies and in 1994 he won an Ivor Novello award and was nominated for a BAFTA and a Golden Globe. The Ivor Novello Classical Music Award recognises lifetime achievement in music and recent winners have included Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, James Macmillan, John Rutter and Sir Harrison Birtwistle.

It has been a busy two months for Nyman having two high profile events in London and an album re-release. The latest release on the composer’s own label, MN Records, is Nyman’s iconic opera Facing Goya (MNRCD121), one of his most defining and monumental works. The opera follows ideas of craniometry, genetic engineering and the genius of painter Francisco Goya.

Nyman has been continuing his interest in opera and early music by writing a brand new insertion aria for Mark Ravenhill and Alex Silverman’s production of The Coronation of Poppea at the King’s Head Theatre. The aria is sung by the apparition of the defiled Ottavia before the final famous love duet and foretells the grim future that awaits the Roman Emperor Nero and his aspiring mistress Poppea. Last Friday, Nyman’s ballet work Music a grande vitesse had its third revival at the Royal Ballet as part of their ‘triple bill’ production. The music accompanies Christopher Wheeldon’s choreography (DGV: Danse a grande vitesse), originally designed for the opening of the high speed train line in France. DGV continues until 25 May as part of the Royal Ballet’s ‘Live Fire Exercise’ night.

Born in England in 1944, Michael Nyman followed the ‘traditional’ musical background through music college and was set to become a pianist and composer. At the age of twenty he 'opted-out’ of the traditional course and turned to work as a music critic, working for The Spectator, and started a project to edit the music of Purcell and Handel.

His entry back into music composition came in 1969 when Harrison Birtwistle asked him to write the libretto for a new work he was commissioned to write. Soon after Birtwistle, then Musical Director of the National Theatre, commissioned him to make arrangements of 18th century music for a play being staged at the theatre. It was performed by a mixture of period and modern instruments, who went on to become the Michael Nyman Band, a group that was to take 'classical' music down a new path. Throughout his life, Nyman has been known for his successful collaborations with artists and producers as diverse as Peter Greenaway, Damon Albarn and, most recently, Mark Ravenhill.

Nyman has written a total of 7 operas: The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, Orpheus’ Daughter, Vital Statistics, Noises, Sounds and Sweet Airs, Facing Goya, Man and Boy: Dada and Love Counts.

Most notably, Nyman has enjoyed a highly successful career as a film composer, the role in which he is probably best known by the general public. His most notable scores number a dozen Peter Greenaway films, including such classics as The Draughtsman's Contract and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover; Neil Jordan's The End Of The Affair; several Michael Winterbottom features including Wonderland, A Cock And Bull Story, and The Trip; the Hollywood blockbuster Gattaca – and most unforgettably the music for Jane Campion's 1993 film, The Piano, the soundtrack album of which has sold more than three million copies.

Now that Nyman has in the last few years also become a film-maker (with a series of short artist’s films and notably with Nyman with a Movie Camera) he is looking forward to a new production of Facing Goya illustrated by his own video and photographic images. The most recent release on MN Records, Collections [MNR MNRCD204, 2010] demonstrates the whole range of Nyman's work as photographer, film-maker and composer.

 

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