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Thea Musgrave

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Title: Thea Musgrave  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Pontalba (opera), WikiProject Opera/OotM/December2006, List of female composers by birth year, Nicholas Daniel, BBC Singers
Collection: 1928 Births, 20Th-Century Classical Composers, 21St-Century Classical Composers, Alumni of the University of Edinburgh, British Expatriates in the United States, Commanders of the Order of the British Empire, Female Classical Composers, Guggenheim Fellows, Honorary Members of the Royal Academy of Music, Living People, Opera Composers, People Educated at Moreton Hall School, People from Edinburgh, Pupils of Aaron Copland, Pupils of Nadia Boulanger, Scottish Classical Composers, Scottish Composers, Scottish Opera Composers, Women in Electronic Music
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Thea Musgrave

Thea Musgrave CBE (born 27 May 1928) is a Scottish composer of opera and classical music. She has lived in the United States since 1972.


  • Biography 1
  • Honours and awards 2
  • Works 3
    • Major works 3.1
    • Operas 3.2
  • Notes 4
  • External links 5


Born in Barnton, Edinburgh, Thea Musgrave was educated at Moreton Hall School, a boarding independent school for girls near the market town of Oswestry in Shropshire, followed by the University of Edinburgh, and in Paris as a pupil of Nadia Boulanger 1950-54. In 1958 she attended the Tanglewood Festival and studied with Aaron Copland. In 1970 she became Guest Professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, a position which confirmed her increasing involvement with the musical life of the United States. She married American violist and opera conductor Peter Mark in 1971. From 1987 to 2002 she was Distinguished Professor at Queen's College, City University of New York.

Among Musgrave's earlier orchestral works, the Concerto for Orchestra of 1967 and the Concerto for Horn of 1971 display the composer's ongoing fascination with ‘dramatic-abstract’ musical ideas. More recent works continue the idea though sometimes in a more programmatic way: such as the oboe concerto Helios of 1994, in which the soloist represents the Sun God. Another frequent source of inspiration is the visual arts – The Seasons took its initial inspiration from a visit to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, while Turbulent Landscapes (commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and premiered by them in 2003) depicts a series of paintings by J. M. W. Turner. Musgrave has written more than a dozen operas and other music theatre works, many taking a historical figure as their central character, among them Mary Queen of Scots (1977), Harriet Tubman (Harriet, the Woman called Moses, 1984), Simón Bolívar (1993; premiere 1995 at the Virginia Opera) and Pontalba (2003). Her music has been recorded on the NMC, Bridge and Lyrita record labels.

In 2008, Thea Musgrave's eightieth birthday was marked by premieres of Points of View, Green, Cantilena, Taking Turns and other performances.

Honours and awards


Major works

  • Chamber Concerto No 2 (1966; chamber ensemble)
  • Night Music (1968; for chamber orchestra – J.W. Chester/Edition Wilhelm Hansen London Ltd.)[1]
  • Concerto for Orchestra (1967)
  • Clarinet Concerto (1969)[2]
  • Concerto for Horn (1971)
  • Viola Concerto (1973)
  • Rorate Coeli (1973; choir)
  • Orfeo (1975; solo flute & tape or strings)
  • Pierrot (1985; cl/vn/pf)
  • Song of the Enchanter (1990; orchestra) (commissioned to honour the 125th anniversary of the birth of Jean Sibelius) [3]
  • Helios (1994; oboe concerto)
  • Songs for a Winter’s Evening (1995; soprano, orchestra)
  • Phoenix Rising (1997, orchestra)
  • Aurora (1999; string orchestra)
  • Turbulent Landscapes (2003; orchestra)
  • Two's Company (2005; concerto for oboe and percussion)
  • Cantilena (2008; oboe quartet)
  • Green (2008; string orchestra)


  • The Abbot of Drimock (1955)
  • Marko the Miser (1962)
  • The Decision (1965)
  • The Voice of Ariadne (1973)
  • Mary, Queen of Scots (1977)
  • A Christmas Carol (1979)
  • An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (1981)
  • Harriet, the Woman called 'Moses (1984)
  • Simón Bolívar (1992)
  • Pontalba (2003)


  1. ^ Kennan, Kent, Grantham, Donald The Technique of Orchestration, 3rd. ed. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1983 pg.340
  2. ^ "Clarinet Concerto – Thea Musgrave, Composer". Thea Musgrave web site. Retrieved 2007-01-31. 
  3. ^ Song of the Enchanter – Thea Musgrave, composer

External links

  • Personal website
  • Thea Musgrave
  • Interview with Thea Musgrave by Bruce Duffie, March 21, 1988
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