Peter Fribbins

The music of Peter Fribbins combines a gift for melody, drama and passion, with a directness and uncompromising clarity:
"...The composer’s distinction from many of his contemporaries rests principally on his willingness and ability to communicate: his music has clarity of expression and a post-Beethovenian resonance, often giving an illusion of Romanticism. Unusual chords characterise the music and beguile the listener; rarely are they detached altogether from some tonal source, yet this tonality is frustrated at most turns..."
Programme note by Dr Christopher Dromey, 2011

Frequently performed throughout the UK, Europe and beyond, Fribbins’s music appeals both to audiences and musicians who enjoy playing his work. As the Czech musicologist and critic Miloš Pokora wrote following a performance by the Rosamunde Piano Trio at the famous Rudolfinum hall in Prague:
“As one of the group of English composers primarily striving to develop the compositional line pursued by Britten and Tippett, he has the matchless gift of melodic invention and a sense of dramatic agitation ... His compositions create the impression of straightforward communicativeness and are extremely popular and sought-after.”


Peter in New York, in 2012
at Barge Musi
Peter Fribbins was born in London in 1969, winning a composition scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music at the age of 17 and subsequently studying at Royal Holloway and Nottingham universities. Studies with the German composer Hans Werner Henze led to the staging of his collaborative opera ‘Anna Bella’ in Italy when still only 20.

One of the key aspects of his musical voice, and to its satisfying resonance and richness, is the way his music relates to and builds upon the great music of the past, essentially from the English and European tradition. This is not limited to music, since many of his works draw upon literary or poetic inspirations: indeed, this has become a distinctive feature of his music. Examples include the early Wind Quintet 'In Xanadu' (after Coleridge) runner-up in the 1991 Royal Philharmonic Society Prize; 'Porphyria’s Lover' for flute and piano (after Browning); '...That Which Echoes in Eternity' (after lines from Dante’s Divine Comedy and which exists in versions for clarinet, or violin, or cello, all with piano); the first string quartet 'I Have the Serpent Brought' (based upon an early seventeenth-century poem ‘Twicknam Garden’ by John Donne); the single movement piano trio 'Softly, in the Dusk...', commissioned by the Rosamunde Trio for their 2007 Wigmore Hall debut, and based on a haunting poem by D.H. Lawrence (subsequently performed by them throughout Europe).
In 2009, Fribbins was one of a number of composers to contribute a piece to the Primrose Piano Quartet's project 'Variations on a Burns Air', to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns's birth. This was performed by the Quartet through England and Scotland and released on the Meridian label together with the new Piano Quartet by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.
The dual commemoration of Haydn's bicentenary and John McCabe's 70th birthday in the same year, led to the writing of 'A Haydn Prelude' for piano, premièred at the Presteigne Festival by Huw Watkins as part of ‘Haydn Fantasies’, a set of pieces composed by seven notable British composers. It was favourably reviewed in the Daily Telegraph and his particular piece widely disseminated in the International Piano Magazine in 2010.

Behind Huw Watkins and John McCabe,
from left: Peter Fribbins, George Vass (Festival Director), John Hawkins,
David Matthews, Matthew Taylor, Hugh Wood, Alan Mills, James Francis Brown
2010 marked the première of ‘Dances & Laments’, a substantial violin and cello duo commissioned by Philippe Graffin for the Consonances Festival in France, and performed in the remarkable venue of the abandoned Second World War German submarine base in St Nazaire. Peter was also delighted to be awarded the medal of the town for the gift of the new work!
UK premiere: Kings Place London, January 2012


Notable premières in 2011 included the Piano Concerto – premièred in the Cadogan Hall by Diana Brekalo, Robertas Šervenikas and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – and ‘The Zong Affair’, a septet commissioned by the new 'Turner Ensemble' (after the painting ‘Slaveship’ by J.W. Turner).
In 2012, ‘Aquarelle’ for solo piano – to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Claude Debussy - was premiered by Clare Hammond (commissioned alongside ‘Aquarelles’ by four other British composers) at the Two Rivers Festival and then at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall. There was also the US premiere of the Cello Sonata, given by Dave Eggar and Olga Vinokur in the ‘BargeMusic’ series in New York – the first of a number of performances of Fribbins’ works there, with some excellent notices in the New York Times.
L to R: Composers Robin Walker, Peter Fribbins, David Matthews, pianist Clare Hammond,
composers James Francis Brown, Alan Mills and Debussy Festival Director Peter Davison.
Other premieres included the Two Fantasias for Viola & Piano (St John’s Smith Square), and a hauntingly beautiful setting of the Wordsworth poem ‘I Travelled among Unknown Men’, premiered by Gillian Keith (soprano) & Simon Lepper (piano) at the Presteigne Festival.
Also in 2012, the US premiere of the Cello Sonata was given by Dave Eggar and Olga Vinokur in the ‘Bargemusic’ series in New York, a renowned concert series given on an old river boat moored in the Hudson River.
2013 marked the launch of the
new CD ‘Dances & Laments’
Dances and Laments CD
– the third CD that Guild Music has now devoted to his music since 2010 – as well as sustained work on the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, a large-scale piece premiered in 2015 at London’s Cadogan Hall, with Philippe Graffin and the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Jean-Jacques Kantorow.
Link to Seen and Heard review,
please click logo:
Seen and Heard Review

Score Dances and Laments
Other recent performances and publications include the premiere of ‘Forlane’ by the pianist Noriko Ogawa – in Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall, and Kawasaki in Japan – a performance of the Violin concerto in Lithuania (together with various chamber works), and further performances in Denmark and Italy. Music Haven Publishing has also recently brought out a handsome new edition of ‘Dances & Laments’ for Violin and Cello duo:
2016 and 2017 saw a recording in Florence of ‘…that which echoes in eternity’, various UK and European performances, including Berlin, Italy, Switzerland and China – also a recording of the Violin Concerto and the new ‘Soliloquies’ for Trumpet & Strings, with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Robertas Servenikas, for CD release in late 2017.
Philiippe Graffin during rehearsals of the Violin Concerto in Lithuania
As well as a composer, Peter is also Director of Music at Middlesex University, and Artistic Director of
the celebrated and long-established series of Sunday
resident in the splendid new Kings Place concert hall since 2008.

Musical Metaphysics and the Resonance of Tradition: An interview with composer Peter Fribbins – Benjamin Dwyer, 2013.
This interview is available as PDF.
Benjamin Dwyer Interview




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