Portrait of Mark Bowden under some lights
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Full Biography

Mark Bowden is a composer of chamber, orchestral and vocal music. His work has been described as ‘an exceptional and absorbing pleasure’ [The Guardian], ‘conjuring up magic and mystery’ [Opera], ‘invigorating’ [The Times] and ‘powerfully dramatic’ [BBC Radio 3].

Mark came to public attention in 2006 when he was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize for his first orchestral commission, Sudden Light (BBC Symphony Orchestra). Further orchestral commissions followed — The Dawn Halts (BBC National Orchestra of Wales) and Tirlun (Ulster Orchestra) — before being appointed Resident Composer with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Mark’s five-year tenure with the orchestra resulted in a series of major works including a cello concerto, Lyra (for Oliver Coates); a dual function percussion concerto & ballet score, Heartland (for National Dance Company Wales); and A Violence of Gifts, a cantata for soprano, baritone, chorus and orchestra, premiered by Martyn Brabbins to widespread critical acclaim. More recent works include the orchestral suite Three Interludes commissioned by Welsh National Opera, Sapiens, a saxophone concerto for the London Sinfonietta, and Outside, for BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

Mark’s growing catalogue of chamber music includes Wych Elm for flute, viola and harp (National Youth Arts Wales), Voices on the Air for eight players (Uproar), The Breaking Wheel for clarinet and piano (Little Missenden Festival, for Mark Simpson), Five Memos for violin and piano (London Music Masters, for Hyeyoon Park & Huw Watkins), Parable for solo saxophone (London Sinfonietta, for Simon Haram), Lines Written a Few Miles Below for violin and electronics, (Rambert Dance Company, for Thomas Gould), Airs No Oceans Keep (Fidelio Trio), Black Yew, White Cloud (Arditti Quartet) as well as works for groups with whom he has developed close partnerships, including Chroma, Kokoro, Ostrava Banda, Philharmonia Orchestra, Spitalfields Festival, London Handel Festival and others.

Mark’s vocal music includes choral works — We Have Found a Better Land (BBC National Chorus of Wales) and Far to the Northward Lying (Making Music) — and works for solo voice, including The Soul Candle, for baritone and piano (Jeremy Huw Williams), Innocents’ Song for baritone and chamber orchestra (Welsh Chamber Orchestra) and Four Haiku for mezzo-soprano and percussion (Catherine King & Julian Warburton). Mark has created vocal works for the stage including The Mare’s Tale for narrator and ensemble (Arts Council of Wales) and a children’s opera, The Song of Rhiannon (W11 Opera).

Mark’s initial training and abiding interest in dance has resulted in much collaboration with choreographers. During his time as Rambert Dance Company’s Music Fellow, Mark created several new works, including Viriditas with Patricia Okenwa (premiered at South Bank Centre), and a new realisation of Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d'un faune for the Company’s main tour. More recently Mark collaborated with Eleesha Drennan on Channel Rose, an evening long work with an original score for saxophone and percussion commissioned by Sky Arts. Virtual Descent, a new work for National Dance Company Wales, toured the UK extensively in 2013/14. Mark has also created work for Richard Alston Dance Company, Ballet Black, and the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

Born in South Wales in 1979, Mark studied composition with Richard Steinitz and Julian Anderson at Huddersfield University and the Royal College of Music. He continued his studies at Dartington International Summer School with Errollyn Wallen and on the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme, at Aldeburgh. Mark has enjoyed residencies and fellowships with BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Rambert Dance Company, Aldeburgh Music, Handel House Museum, Kettle's Yard, University of Cambridge, Visby International Centre for Composers in Sweden, and the MacDowell Colony in the US. Mark was Professor of Composition at Royal Holloway, University of London before beeing appointed Professor of Music at the Royal College of Music in 2022. He was chair of the British Section of the International Society for Contemporary Music from 2014-2018. In 2015 he was awarded the Welsh Music Guild’s Glanville Jones Award and in 2016 he received a British Composer Award. He was nominated for an Ivor Novello Award in 2019 and is writing his first full-length opera for Welsh National Opera.

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