July 16, 1941 - September 21, 2010
born in Hambledon, Hants, composed during the Contemporary period
Geoffrey Burgon is an important English composer, best known for his television scores, in particular Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Brideshead Revisited, and for several film scores, including The Dogs of War and Robin Hood. He has also achieved success for his stage, orchestral and vocal works.
Burgon was born in the English village of Hambledon on July 15, 1941. In his teens, he taught himself to play the trumpet, not least to satisfy his fascination with jazz. At 19 he enrolled at the Guildhall School of Music in London. There he studied trumpet with Bernard Brown, but also took instruction in composition from Peter Wishart. He learned the essentials of composing quickly: a Concerto for String Orchestra dates to 1963 and his first large work, the ballet The Golden Fish, followed in 1964.
Gradually, he focused more attention on composition and began studying with composer Lennox Berkeley. Burgon produced a large number of vocal works during this period, including Short Mass for chorus (1965), Farewell Earth's Bliss (1966), and 5 Sonnets of John Donne for vocal soloists and chamber ensemble (1967), which earned him a Prince Pierre of Monaco Award in 1968.
Burgon forsook his trumpet career in 1971 and over the next several years turned out a spate of works in various genres. His major breakthrough came, however, with a pair of vocal/choral works: Requiem (1976) and The Fall of Lucifer (1977). His first major film scores, Monty Python's Life of Brian and Testament of Youth, as well as the hit television score Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, came in 1979.
Thereafter Burgon was in demand in both the television and motion picture industries. But he hardly abandoned concert and stage music, writing numerous compositions, including Little Missenden Variations for wind quartet (1984), the ballet The Trial of Prometheus (1988), and perhaps his most ambitious work, the 1991 opera Hard Times. He extended the parameters of his already versatile style when he produced the percussion concerto City Adventures in 1994 for Evelyn Glennie and the Piano Concerto in 1997 for Joanna MacGregor.
In the new century Burgon continued to produce music scores at a prolific pace, especially in the vocal realm. Three Mysteries (2003), for soloists, chorus, and chamber orchestra and Of flowers and emeralds sheen (2004), for a cappella chorus, have garnered further laurels for the busy composer. ~ Robert Cummings, Rovi