Andrew Downes

“The British composer Andrew Downes ranks today among the internationally acclaimed personalities.” - Czech Philharmonic Orchestra 

"Downes has an impressive command of his art."Opera News

"This is modern tonal chamber music at its finest."  - The Horn Call

Andrew Downes was born in Handsworth, Birmingham, in 1950. He won a choral scholarship to St.John’s College, Cambridge in 1969, where he gained an MA degree specialising in composition; and in 1974 went on to study with Herbert Howells at the Royal College of Music. Between 1990 and 2005, he was Head of the School of Composition and Creative Studies at Birmingham Conservatoire and was awarded a Professorship in 1992. He now works as a freelance composer.

Andrew Downes’ music has been performed throughout the world, in many leading concert halls and cathedrals, and has been broadcast on BBC Radios 2,3 & 4, BBC TV, ‘France Musique’, Italian TV, Austrian Radio, Dutch Radio, Czech Radio and Central Peking Radio. Numerous CDs have been made of his music.

His commissions have included: The Marshes of Glynn for the Royal opening of the Adrian Boult Hall in Birmingham in 1986; Centenary Firedances for the City of Birmingham’s Centenary Festival of Fireworks and Music; an Overture for the Three Choirs Festival; songs for Cantamus’ Girls’ Choir; song cycles for mezzo-soprano Sarah Walker and tenor John Mitchinson for broadcast on BBC Radio 3; anthems for the BBC Radio 4 Daily Service; Sonata for 8 Horns for the Horn Octet of the University of New Mexico; Suite for 6 Horns for the Vienna Horn Society; Song of the Eagle for the James Madison University Flute Choir of Virginia; Concerto for Two Pianos for the Duo Scaramouche; Sonata for 8 Pianists for soloists from France, Italy and Britain; Mela Kamavardhani for performances by Indo-Jazz Fusions in Calcutta, Delhi and Bombay; Fanfare for Madam Speaker, for the Installation of the Rt Hon Betty Boothroyd MP as Chancellor of the Open University; Concerto for Two Guitars for Simon Dinnigan and Fred T.Baker with Strings from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; Concert Overture: Towards a New Age for the 150th anniversary of the British Institution of Mechanical Engineers, premiered in Symphony Hall, Birmingham, by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; and Sonata for Brass Sextet for the Czech Philharmonic Brass Sextet.

As a result of the success of the CD recording of his Sonata for 8 Horns by the Horns of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Andrew was commissioned to compose a Concerto for 4 Horns and Orchestra for the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, who gave two performances of the work in the Dvorak Hall, Prague, in February and March 2002. In March 2003, the work was recorded by Czech Radio, and was broadcast in 2004. Andrew returned to Prague in October 2005 to attend the world premiere, by the Czech Philharmonic Horns, of his 5 Dramatic Pieces for 8 Wagner Tubas (this work has been released on CD on the Czech Philharmonic ArteSmon label).

Recent projects include Far from the Madding Crowd, a five act opera based on Thomas Hardy’s novel, commissioned for and first performed at the Thomas Hardy Festival in Dorchester in July 2006; Songs of Autumn (2003) and Songs of the Skies; both commissioned by Symphony Hall, Birmingham, and first performed by 1200 schoolchildren and players from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the Central England Ensemble respectively; Songs of Love, premiered at University Hall, Harvard, in February 2007, by Paula Downes and David Trippett; Sonata for Violin, Horn and Piano for the Brahms Trio Prague, premiered in the Suk Hall, Prague in 2008 (a CD of this work has also been released on the Czech Philharmonic ArteSmon label); and Concerto for Piano and Symphony Orchestra for Duncan Honeybourne and the Central England Ensemble, premiered in Birmingham Town Hall in 2009, with a subsequent performance in Coventry Cathedral.


Other projects have included a Concerto for French Horn & Symphony Orchestra for Ondrej Vrabec (principal horn Czech Philharmonic Orchestra) and the Central England Ensemble, which was premiered in Birmingham Town Hall in October 2012.

Andrew Downes’ music is published by Lynwood Music, Faber Music and the Royal College of Organists.




CCA Composer of the Month – DECEMBER 2013

Andrew Downes, the Central Composer’s Alliance President, is 13th Composer of the Month is a series in which you will learn more about each of our composers in turn and hear music which they’ve chosen...