Stephen Pratt


Stephen Pratt  (b. Liverpool 15th June, 1947) studied first to be a teacher, at Christ’s College of Education; later he continued his music studies at the Royal Manchester College of Music (conducting with George Hadjinikos) and then to under- and post-graduate study at Reading and Liverpool Universities. At Liverpool he studied composition with Hugh Wood, with whom he continued to study privately until 1975. He became known with works like the Piano Sonata (1974-5) and Star and Dead Leaves for flute and piano (1977) which were both selected for performance in the BBC Young Composers’ Forums of 1976 and 1978. In 1978 an Arts Council bursary enabled him to write his first orchestral work, Some of their Number (1978-9), which was commissioned by the RLPS and given its premiere by the RLPO under Simon Rattle in 1980; it was subsequently given three more performances by the orchestra under Barry Wordsworth in 1984. In 1987 his Strong Winds, Gentle Airs was performed in London at the Festival Hall by the Wirral Schools Concert Band, who had commissioned the work, and following this he became the Performing Rights Society’s composer-in residence to the Wirral which involved him in extended composition projects with pupils from Wirral Schools.  In 1991 he completed the first part of Uneasy Vespers, commissioned for the 150th anniversary of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society; it was premiered by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra with the Finzi Singers under Vernon Handley in the May of that year.


At the request of Wells Cathedral School, he returned to the solo piano for At the turn of the year (1992, revised 2016)), heard in Wells, London and more recently in performances by Joanna MacGregor and on Richard Casey’s CD recording; following that, a choral piece, With the drawing of this love (1993), first heard at the Chester Festival given by the Finzi Singers, directed by Paul Spicer; and a work for saxophone, string trio and tape, About time, which was first performed by Take Four in March 1995. In 1997 he completed a Violin Concerto, which he began in 1991, and in the July of that year Joanna MacGregor gave the first performance of The Song Within, a commission for the 1997 Chester Festival. 1998 brought Undulations and other Movements for the ensemble Psappha, which received its first performance at the Royal Northern College of Music in November 1999, and issued on Psappha’s double CD Waterfront in December 1999.  His tape work Four mini-tudes and thirty-three seconds (studies after John Cage) was heard at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in December 1998, and subsequently extracts were used on Joanna MacGregor’s CD of the music of John Cage, Perilous Night.  An orchestral work, Surroundings, was a Millennium commission by the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral Concerts Society, and was first performed in the Cathedral in July, 2000. In 2001 he was invited to write a piece for the Chilingirian String Quartet, which resulted in Aphrodite’s Rock, first performed by the quartet in November of that year. A song-cycle, Lovebytes, for soprano and chamber ensemble was premiered by Patricia Rozario and the RLP’s 10/10 ensemble in May, 2003 conducted by Clark Rundell. Lovebytes was subsequently nominated for a British Composers’ Award by the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters in December 2004. The Violin Concerto, somewhat revised from the 1997 version, received its first performance by the Anthony Marwood and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Gerard Schwarz in October 2003.  Lovebytes (with Claire Booth as soloist) and the Violin Concerto were recorded and issued together on the RLPO Live ! label with Double Act (2006). Double Act was commissioned by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic with funds provided by the Liverpool Culture Company to celebrate the 10th anniversary season of Ensemble 10/10, and received its first performance in November 2006, given by Ensemble 10/10, conducted by Clark Rundell, at the Royal Northern College of Music. Following Double Act, Stephen was asked to write a work for his former pupil and BBC Young Musician of the Year, Mark Simpson. Short Score, for clarinet and piano, was first performed in November, 2006 and repeated during the festival week celebrating the re-opening of the concert room in St.George’s Hall, Liverpool. This was followed by The Miraculous Mandolin, for ensemble, was performed in Bournemouth in November 2007 by the ensemble Kokoro.

Stephen finally completed the second part of Uneasy Vespers following a commission from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic to celebrate Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture in 2008, and it was performed by I Fagiolini and the RLP Choir and Orchestra conducted by Clark Rundell in the October of that year. He then completed another ensemble work, On Reflection,  which, like The Miraculous Mandolin was premiered by Kokoro and the subsequently performed by Ensemble 10/10 at the Huddersfield International Festival and broadcast on BBC Radio 3; a work for solo cello, Entre Nous, was premiered by Jonathan Aasgaard at the Liverpool Biennial in 2012, and in 2013, a piece for chamber orchestra, Chant de Printemps, premiered by Ensemble 10/10. 2015 brought a work for solo clarinet, Solo Uno, premiered by Nicholas Cox in Madrid in the July of that year. Following a 60th birthday tribute to James Wishart in October 2016, Song and Dance, Stephen returned to the symphony orchestra for a work commissioned by the RLPO to celebrate both his 70th birthday and the tenth anniversary of Liverpool’s Capital of Culture year. This was Symphonies of Time and Tide, first performed by the RLPO and conducted by Vasily Petrenko in January 2018. Prior to that, another commission to celebrate his 70th birthday came from the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral Concerts Society, for whom he wrote Three Imaginary Folksongs, premiered in July 2017 by the Cathedral Orchestra with the clarinettist Jacqueline Thomas as soloist. Telling the Tale, commissioned by Psappha, was premiered by the ensemble in February 2019 with Jamie Phillips conducting, and in June 2021 his 50 years of teaching at Liverpool Hope was celebrated at a concert with performances by Pixels Ensemble of seven of his works, including the newly-composed In Hope.

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