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 Senior Lecturer in Music 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 four 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.

Recent major works include, a Piano Concerto, premièred in Dresden in 2000, a large-scale song-cycle for baritone and piano: The Borders of Sleep (2001) and the hour-long Gaia Symphony (1991-2003) for brass band. John Pickard’s commitment to the brass band movement was marked in 2001, when he was appointed Composer in Residence to the renowned “Buy as you View” 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.

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 2, 3 & 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.’

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

John Pickard’s music is handled exclusively by Bardic Edition and details and availability of material and published scores can be obtained by contacting the publisher or their agents at the addresses on the home page.


1982 Sol Oriens 15'00" Organ & Orchestra*
1983 Nocturne in Black and Gold 7'00" Flute/Clarinet/Violin/Cello/Harpsichord (Piano)*
1983 Ozymandias 8'00" 10-part choir a cappella [BD 0759]
1983 Sun 10'00" Organ
1983-4 Symphony No. 1 30'00" Full Orchestra*
1984 Serenata Concertata 23'00" Solo Flute/Clarinet/Cello/Double Bass/ Piano/2nd Flute*
1985-7 Symphony No. 2 Full Orchestra*
1987 Piano Sonata 30'00" Piano [BD 0144] (Divine Art CD 24111)
1983-7 Three Latin Motets 10'00":
O Nata Lux SATB a cappella/Te Lucis Ante Terminum SSAA a cappella/Uni Caritas Amor SATB a cappella [BD 0199a-c]
1987 Paraphrase on 'The Duke of Marlborough' 6'00" Piano [BD 0787]
1988 A Madrigal for Thomas Morley 2 Trumpets/Horn/Trombone [BD 0442-1]
1989 Sea-Change 18'00" Full Orchestra*
1990 Piano Trio 15'00" Violin/Cello/Piano [BD 0788] [CD recording forthcoming]
1990 The Flight of Icarus ca. 19'00" Full Orchestra*
1990 Wildfire 12'00" Brass Band [CD recording available on Doyen Recordings
1991 Inscape 8'00" Guitar [BD 0311]
1991 String Quartet No. 1 37'00"
1992 The Phoenix 15'00" Soprano & Piano [BD 0316]
1992 Ave Maris Stella 7'00" SATB a cappella [BD 0305]
1992 The Phagotus of Afranio ca. 9'00" Bassoon & Piano [BD 0538]
1993 Channel Firing 27'00" Full Orchestra*
1993 String Quartet No. 2 c. 15'00" [CD recording available on Dutton Laboratories CD EPOCH CDLX 7117]
1993 Partita c. 25'00" String Orchestra*
1994 String Quartet No. 3 ca. 20'00" [CD recording available on Dutton Laboratories CD EPOCH CDLX 7117]
1995 A Starlit Dome c. 13'00" Piano [BD 0613] (Divine Art CD 24111)
1994-5 Sonata 27'00" for Violoncello & Piano [withdrawn]
1995 ‘Men of Stone’ - Symphonic Suite ca. 15'00" Brass Band [CD recording available on Kirklees Music CD KRCD1034]
1995-6 Symphony No. 3 c. 37'00" Full Orchestra*
1997 Insomnia c. 10'00" Violin & Piano
1997 Chaconne c. 7'00" Viola solo
1998 String Quartet No. 4 c. 28'00" [CD recording available on Dutton Laboratories CD EPOCH CDLX 7117]
1998 Trombone Concerto ‘The Spindle of Necessity’ c. 22'00" Trombone, Strings & Percussion*
1998 A Better Time Than Ours - Carol ca. 10'00" mixed voices a cappella
1999 Piano Concerto c. 30'00" Piano and Orchestra*
2000 Valedictions 8'00" for Violoncello and Piano
2001 The Borders of Sleep - Nine poems of Edward Thomas 35'00" for Baritone voice and piano
2001 Invocation for Brass Band 3'00" [CD recording available on Doyen Recordings ]
2002 Tsunami ca. 13'00" for Brass Band (commissioned by the National Youth Brass Band of Wales for July 2002)
2002 Black Castles 10'00" for Brass Ensemble (10-part) (commissioned by brasspartout, Germany)
2003 Aurora 15'00" for Brass Band
1991-2004 Gaia Symphony ca. 65'00" for Brass Band†*
2004 Orion ca. 14'00" for Trumpet and Organ
2004 Sonata ca. 18'00" for Violin and Piano
2005 Eden ca. 13'30" for Brass Band (The Brass Band Heritage Trust as the test piece for the Final of the 2005 Besson National Brass Band Championship)
2005-2007 Agamemnon’s Tomb (A Requiem) for Soprano, Tenor and Bass soloists, Chorus and Orchestra
2007 Songs of Rain and Sea for SSA Choir, Piano 4 hands (or Two Pianos) and Percussion
2008 Tenebrae for Orchestra
2009 Tesserae for Organ
2010 The Burning of the Leaves for Baritone voice 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


1992 A Bridal Lullaby (Percy Aldridge Grainger) 5'00" for Orchestra
1997 The Battle Song (Havergal Brian) 10'00" for Brass Band
1998 Toccata (Monteverdi from Orfeo) 2'00" for Orchestra
2002 Mazurka in A minor op. 17 No. 4 (Chopin) 5'00" for Brass Band
2007 Sospiri (Edward Elgar) for String Quartet

Recording News:

Following the successful release of their all-Pickard orchestral disc, a second disc will be recorded in the spring of 2010 by BIS Records. Once again, the performers will be the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra conducted by Martyn Brabbins. The disc will feature Sea-Change, the Piano Concerto, with Fredrik Ullén as soloist, and a large-scale new work, Tenebrae, commissioned by the orchestra. The new piece will be premièred in March 2010.

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