Param Vir

b. 1952



Param Vir began composition lessons in India at the age of fourteen. His family had a background in Indian classical music and these sounds permeated his childhood. He moved to England in 1983 to study with Peter Maxwell Davies at Dartington and later with Oliver Knussen at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. His style is a synthesis of Western tradition and Eastern aesthetics. He has a particular affinity for dramatic genres and amongst his most performed works are the operatic double bill Snatched by the Gods and Broken Strings, commissioned by Henze for the Munich Biennale, and the full length opera Ion which premiered at the 2000 Aldeburgh Festival.
Critical Acclaim
...[the] sound-world is utterly individual [and]…moves at its own dangerously leisurely
pace. Well, so do Bruckner and Birtwistle, and the way the audience was held in
breathless silence at the climax…suggests Vir knows perfectly well what he is
doing. - Rodney Milnes, Opera

(Horse Tooth White Rock) ...gripping - a superbly crafted...path from violence to transcendental calm, ending in a
symbolic and sublimely lyrical canon for cor anglais and cello over hushed strings. - Richard Morrison, The Times


Param Vir was born in Delhi in 1952. His mother was a poet and
distinguished vocalist, his father an electronics engineer and
mathematician, and Vir’s formative years at home were steeped in Indian
classical music. Piano lessons began at the age of 9 and composition
lessons followed at 14. It was through these avenues that Param Vir was
first introduced to contemporary music in the western idiom - an
introduction that immediately kindled a belief and passion in the young
composer that has never abated, and continues to inform his entire
creative output.

Vir’s early compositions attracted the interest of Peter Maxwell Davies
who invited him to the Dartington Summer School on a scholarship in
1983. Under Maxwell Davies’ encouragement, in 1984, Param Vir moved to
London to study composition. The move was immediately successful –
within three years, he had won the Benjamin Britten Composition Prize
(Aldeburgh), the Kucyna International Composition Prize (Boston), the
Tippett Composition Award (Dartington) and the Performing Right Society
Composition Prize (London).

 From the 1990s Param Vir distinguished himself as an opera composer of
considerable talent and originality. His two one-act operas – Broken Strings and Snatched by the Gods
– were commissioned by Hans Werner Henze for the 1992 Munich Biennale,
in a production by Pierre Audi and Netherlands Opera. The following
year, Param Vir received the Ernst von Siemens composition prize
(Munich). As a measure of its success, the double bill has since been
performed in numerous productions; by Almeida Opera (1996), Scottish
Opera (1998), Berlin State Opera (1999) and Musikwerkstatt Wien (1999).
In 2001, the original Pierre Audi production was revived by
Muziektheater Transparant and performed in Antwerp, Rotterdam and Rouen.

Param Vir’s first full length opera – Ion – was commissioned by
Aldeburgh Almeida Opera and received its first performance at the
Aldeburgh Festival in 2000. The first full production of the opera was
staged in 2003 in a co-production between Music Theatre Wales, the
Berliner Festwochen and Opera National du Rhin. The premiere launched
the latter’s 2003/4 season with a series of seven performances, before
touring to the Berlin Festival, the Linbury Studio of the Royal Opera
House, Covent Garden, and touring around the UK.

Horse Tooth White Rock
, a large orchestral work based on the life
of the eleventh century Tibetan saint Milarepa, was commissioned and
first performed by the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Peter Maxwell
Davies in 1994. Since then, it has been performed by the BBC Symphony
Orchestra at the 2005 BBC Proms and by the Flanders Philharmonic at de
Singel in Antwerp.

Other notable works include Ultimate Words: Infinite Song, for
baritone solo, percussion sextet and piano, which was commissioned by
the 1997 Berlin Festival. The piece is inspired by the writings of the
Second World War Danish resistance hero Kim Malthe-Bruun. The Theatre of Magical Beings
was commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group in 2003 and
described by one critic as a "virtuosic and hugely enjoyable,
life-affirming work”. This was followed in 2005 by Hayagriva, which was given its first performance by the Schönberg Ensemble at Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw aan’t IJ.

In 2006 the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Alexander Rumpf gave the first performance of Between Earth and Sky.
Inspired by Anish Kapoor’s Chicago sculpture Cloud Gate, the piece was
praised by the Sunday telegraph which commented that "even in quiet,
rapturous reflection at the end, the music is held in place by a
structural backbone that suggests fruitful engagement with the work of

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