John Pickard

John Pickard was born on 11 September, 1963 and started to compose at an early age. He read for his B.Mus. degree at the University of Wales, Bangor, where his composition teacher was William Mathias. Between 1984 and 1985 he studied with Louis Andriessen at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, Netherlands on a Dutch Ministry of Culture Scholarship. He was awarded a PhD in composition in 1989 and is currently Professor of Composition and Applied Musicology at the University of Bristol, where has worked since 1993.

John Pickard is best known for a series of powerful orchestral and instrumental works. He has written five symphonies (No. 2 premièred by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in 1989; No. 3, a BBC commission for BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Mark Wigglesworth, premièred in 1997), and other orchestral works of symphonic dimensions: Sea-Change (1989), The Flight of Icarus (1990), Channel Firing (1992-93) and the Trombone Concerto: The Spindle of Necessity (1997-98). The Flight of Icarus (a BBC commission), received its first performance in 1991 by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, was repeated by them at the 1996 BBC Proms and has since been played many times, both in Britain and abroad.

Other major works include the large-scale oratorio Agamemnon’s Tomb (2005-08), commissioned by the Huddersfield Choral Society, and premièred by them in 2008, Tenebrae (2008-9) composed for the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra, and first performed in 2010, and the hour-long Gaia Symphony (1991-2003) for brass band, first heard in its complete version at the 2005 Cheltenham Music Festival. John Pickard’s commitment to the brass band movement was marked in 2001, when he was appointed Composer in Residence to the renowned Cory Band, a position he held until 2004. In 2005 he was commissioned to compose the test piece for the finals of the 2005 National Brass Band Championship, held at the Royal Albert Hall, London in October. This piece, Eden, has since been performed all over the world and is widely acknowledged to be one of the most important works ever written for brass band.

John Pickard’s music has been widely praised for its large-scale architectural sense and bold handling of an extended tonal idiom. His four string quartets (1991, 1993, 1994, 1998), have received particular acclaim. Reviewing the première of the Fourth Quartet in June 1998, The Strad called it “one of the best pieces of British chamber music to be heard for years” while the January 2003 edition of Tempo, reviewing the Sorrel Quartet’s CD of Quartets 23 & 4 (Dutton Epoch CDLX 71117), said “even if Pickard were never to write another quartet in his life, his place among the greats is secure”. His orchestral music has also received critical praise. The U.S. première in 2006 of The Flight of Icarus by the San Francisco Symphony was described by the San Francisco Chronicle as ‘a translucent and achingly lovely memorial to the fallen Icarus’ and ‘a serious contender for the most exciting musical premiere of 2006.’

An increasing number of John Pickard’s compositions is available on CD. The major international label BIS Records has issued three discs devoted to his music. Two discs of his chamber music have been issued on the Toccata Classics label, including Quartets 1 & 5.

In addition to his compositional activities, John is General Editor of the Elgar Complete Edition.


John Pickard’s music is published by Bardic Edition and available through  Goodmusic Publishing (sales works) and Schott Music (hire works).

Works marked with an asterisk have audio samples. Works marked with a double asterisk have scores and audio samples.

1983 Nocturne in Black and Goldfor Chamber Ensemble

1983 Ozymandias * for S.S.S.A.A.A.T.T.B.B. Choir

1983-1984 Symphony No.1 for Orchestra

1984 Serenata Concertata for Solo Flute and Chamber Ensemble

1985-1987 Symphony No.2 for Orchestra

1987 Piano Sonata **

1983-1987 Three Latin Motets for S.A.T.B. Choir

1987 Paraphrase on “The Duke of Marlborough for Piano solo

1988 A Madrigal for Thomas Morley for Brass ensemble

1988-89 Sea-Change for Orchestra

1990 Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano

1990 Inscape for Guitar solo

1990 The Flight of Icarus ** for Orchestra

1991 Wildfire ** for Brass Band

1991 String Quartet No.1

1992 The Phoenix for Soprano and Piano

1992 The Phagotus of Afranio for Bassoon and Piano

1992 Ave Maris Stella for S.A.T.B. Choir

1992-1993 Channel Firing * for Orchestra

1993 String Quartet No.2 **

1993 Partita for String Orchestra

1994 String Quartet No.3 **

1995 Men of Stone (Symphonic Suite) ** for Brass Band

1995 A Starlit Dome * for Piano solo

1995-1996 Symphony No.3 for Orchestra

1997 Insomnia for Violin and Piano

1997-1998 The Spindle of Necessity * for Trombone solo and Orchestra

1997-1998 String Quartet No.4 **

1998 Chaconne Viola solo

1998 A Better Time than Ours – A Carol for S.S.S.A.A.A.T.T.B.B. Choir

1999-2000 Piano Concerto

2000 Valedictions for Cello and Piano

2000-2001 The Borders of Sleep – Nine Poems by Edward Thomas for Baritone and Piano

2001 Invocation for Brass Band

2001-2002 Tsunami ** for Brass Band

2002 Black Castles ** for Brass Ensemble

2003 Aurora ** for Brass Band

1991-2004 Gaia Symphony ** for Brass Band

2004 Orion for Trumpet and Organ

2004 Sonata for Violin and Piano

2005 Eden ** for Brass Band

2005-2007 Agamemnon’s Tomb (A Requiem) ** for Soprano, Tenor and Bass soloists, Chorus and Orchestra

2007 Songs of Rain and Sea for S.S.A Choir, Piano (4-hands) and Percussion

2008 Tenebrae ** for Orchestra

2009 Tesserae for Organ

2010-12 (0rchestrated 2011, 2015) Binyon Songs (version for Baritone and Orchestra) for Baritone and Orchestra

2010 The Burning of the Leaves for baritone and piano

2010 Snowbound for bass clarinet, cello and piano

2011 The Burning of the Leaves (version for baritone and orchestra)

2011 Concertante Variations (Presteigne Concerto) for Wind Quintet, Timpani and Strings

2011-2012 String Quartet No. 5

2012 Binyon Songs for Baritone and Piano for baritone and piano

2013 Sixteen Sunrises for Orchestra

2013 Angry Lament for Open score: four lines (which may be taken by different instrumental combinations) · Keyboard(s) · Drum(s) and Tam-tam(s)

2014 Symphony No. 5 for Orchestra

2015 Forbidding Mourning for String Orchestra

2015 In Sea-Cold Lyonesse for Orchestra

2015 O Magnum Mysterium – motet for SATB Choir

2015 Binyon Songs version for Baritone and Orchestra

2016 Daughters of Zion for Ensemble

2016 Ghost-Train for Ensemble

2016 The Gardener of Aleppo for flute, viola and harp

2017 Rain, Steam and Speed for Brass Band

2018 Mass in Troubled Times for 18 Unaccompanied voices

2018 The Art of Beginning for Orchestra

2019  String Quartet No. 6

2020  Verlaine Songs for solo voice and chamber ensemble

2020  Stronghold

2020  Piano Sonata No. 2

2020  Men of Stone (version for Symphonic Wind Band)

2021  Symphony No. 6



1992 Bridal Lullaby (Percy Grainger) Transcription for Orchestra

1997 The Battle Song (Havergal Brian) Transcription for Brass Band

1998 Toccata (Monteverdi) Transcription for Chamber Ensemble

2002 Mazurka in A minor Op. 17 No.4 (Chopin) Transcription for Brass Band

2007 Sospiri (Elgar) Transcription for String Quartet

2014 The Vision of Cleopatra – Tragic Poem by Havergal Brian for Orchestra and SATB Choir

2020 Six Maeterlinck Lieder by Alexander von Zemlinsky

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