(b Crows-an-Wra, West Cornwall, 19 April 1963). English composer. He studied at the University of Nottingham with Peter Nelson and Nigel Osborne (1981–4), then with Louis Andriessen at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague (1984–7). In 1985 he co-founded Nanquidno, a group of pianists at two keyboards. Piano music has been central to Fitkin's output; from the early multiple piano works, such as Loud (1989), Log (1990) and Line (1991), each composed for the British ensemble Six Pianos, Fitkin turned after 1991 to writing exclusively solo pieces.
The piano's neutrality and relatively unified sound quality are strong attractions for a composer much concerned with clarity, with music as abstract formal design and with an aesthetic that, despite a frequent use of quasi-programmatic titles and an often considerable urgency of expression, is essentially classical. Fitkin's style, as well as his aesthetic, has developed out of minimalism, notably the European variety associated with his Dutch teacher. Many of his compositions stress rhythmic propulsion allied to an individual timbral pungency. At the same time his style incorporates a pronounced lyrical streak and a harmonic language which ranges from the acidic to the plangent.
Fitkin lived in London from 1987 to 1991, before moving back to his native Cornwall. During the early 1990s he became increasingly in demand as a composer for contemporary dance, for music theatre (in works such as Ghosts, written for the Royal Opera House's Garden Venture scheme in 1994) and especially for large orchestra. In the 12 orchestral compositions written in 1994–8 (five while composer-in-association with the Royal Liverpool PO in 1994–6), Fitkin explores the full range of the conventional orchestra as well as the wind-dominated ensembles favoured by other post-minimalists. He formed a sextet, the Graham Fitkin Group, in 1996.
Dramatic and vocal: Drum (music-theatre piece, Fitkin, after Sp. newspapers and Sp. civil war political slogans), 1v, s sax, b gui, perc, kbd, 1989; Nasar (Fitkin, after G. Garcia Marquez), S, pf, 1992; Ghosts (short op, W. Donohue, after P. Auster: Ghosts), spkr, 3vv, sax, kbd, str qt, 1993
Chbr: Qt, fl, 3 perc, 1983; Too Much Chocolate, 2 cl, 1983; Ostrich on the Plain, ob, perc, 1985; Those Sweet Sweet Melodies, b cl, pf, 1986; Baroque Extensions, 3 equal insts, 1987; The Frisian has Four Stomachs. In the Fourth Stomach is Found the Farm Labourer, gui, 1987; Cud, 5 sax, 5 brass, 2 fl, 2 cl, elec gui, b gui, perc, 2 kbd, 1988; Huoah, 2 kbd, str qt, 1990 [arr. of brass band work]; Slow, 2 kbd, str qt, 1990; Length, s sax, b gui, 3 kbd, 1991; Stub, 4 sax, 1991; Hook, 4 perc, 1991; Frame, fl, mar, 1991; Servant, str qt, 1992; Mesh, 3 sax, 2 fl, 3 kbd, elec gui, b gui, 1992; Wedding, org, 1992; Ardent, fl, cl, vn, vc, perc, pf, 1993; A Small Qt, str qt, 1993; Another Small Qt, str qt, 1993; Hard Fairy, s sax, 2 pf, 1994; Vent, 4 cl, 1994; Jim and Pam and Pam and Jim, sax/fl, 1995; Hurl, 4 sax, 1996; Nape, s sax, b cl, tpt, hn, trbn, hp, vn, va, vc, db, 1996; Trevor, brass qnt, 1997; Ironic, 2 sax, perc, pf, vn, vc, 1997; Bolt, vn, pf, 1997; Stark, 2 sax, 2 tpt, trbn, b gui, pf, str qt, 1997; Skew, 2 ob, 2 cl, 2 bn, 2 hn, tpt, db, 1997; Cusp, cl, 1997
2 or more pf: Sciosophy, 2 pf (8 hands), 1986; There is a Great Weight on my Head Tonight, 2 pf (8 hands), 1986; Untitled 11, 2 pf (8 hands), 1987; Slush 1, 2 pf (8 hands), 1988; Loud, 6 pf, 1989; Flak, 2 pf (8 hands), 1989; Aract, 2 pf, 1990; Fract, 2 pf, 1990; Log, 6 pf, 1990; Cliche, 2 pf, 1991; Line, 6 pf, 1991
Solo pf: From Yellow to Yellow, 1985; The Cone Gatherers, 1987; Early 89, 1989; Furniture, 1989; Mid 89, 1989; Late 89, 1989; Bookcase, 1990; 90, 1990; 91, 1991; Very Early 92, 1992; Early 92, 1992; Mid 92, 1992; Late 92, 1992; Very Late 92, 1992; Fervent, 1992–4; Carnal, 1993; Blue, 1993; 93, 1993; 94, 1994; Ella, 1995; Sazz, 1995; 95, 1995; Prelude no.1, 1996; Extremely Early 96, 1996; Mid 96, 1996; Relent, 1998; H1–H6, 1998
(b Burwell, nr Mildenhall, 1792; d Chatham, 27 Oct 1873). English dramatist and librettist. He made his London début with the play The Innkeeper of Abbeville (1821–2). From 1828 onwards he wrote for Covent Garden, and from 1830 to 1838 for Vauxhall Gardens. He is best remembered as the author of The Siege of Rochelle (set by Balfe) and Maritana (Wallace). Fitzball’s personal mildness of manner belied his ardently romantic nature. He prefaced his original surname with ‘Fitz’ (his mother’s maiden name) for dramatic effect, and his Transpontine melodramas earned him the nickname ‘the Terrible Fitzball’. His facility was inexhaustible, and he revelled in the creation of stage devilry and the lavish use of blue fire. His appeal to composers may be attributed to his professional shrewdness: he calculated for maximum effect and saw his job in terms of entertaining the public. He seems to have worked by having the numbers set as he wrote them, one by one, as he describes in his account of the composing of Joan of Arc (Thirty-Five Years, ii, 122–3):
Balfe took home, piece by piece, the poetry, and, when finished came again to Twickenham for more, till poem and music were alike complete … of all the composers I ever wrote for, Balfe was the best tempered, and delighted when the slightest opportunity occurred to bestow praise, which is so encouraging to an author, especially a sensitive one like me.
His autobiography, Thirty-Five Years of a Dramatic Author's Life, is a chatty and fascinating farrago of theatrical information.
Waverley, or Sixty Years Since (Scottish drama), G.H. Rodwell, 1824; The Flying Dutchman, or The Phantom Ship (nautical drama), Rodwell, 1827; The Earthquake, or The Spectre of the Nile (burletta operatic spectacle), Rodwell, 1828; The Night before the Wedding and the Wedding Night (operatic farce), H.R. Bishop, 1829
Adelaide, or The Royal William (national and nautical musical burletta), Bishop, 1830; The Black Vulture, or The Wheel of Death (musical drama), Rodwell, 1830; The Sorceress, Ries, 1831; Der Alchymist (with T.H. Bayly), Bishop, 1832; The Maid of Cashmere (ballet op), Bishop, 1833
The Soldier’s Widow, or The Ruins of the Mill (musical drama), J. Barnett, 1833; Jonathan Bradford, or The Murder at the Roadside Inn! (drama), J. Jolly, 1833; The Siege of Rochelle (original op), M.W. Balfe, 1835; Joan of Arc (grand op), Balfe, 1837; Diadesté, or The Veiled Lady (opera buffa), Balfe, 1838; The Maid of Palaiseau, Bishop, 1838; Këolanthé, or The Unearthly Bride, Balfe, 1841; The Queen of the Thames, or The Anglers, or Uncle Brayling (operetta), J.L. Hatton, 1842; Pasqual Bruno (comic op), Hatton, 1844
Maritana (grand op), V. Wallace, 1845; The Maid of Honour, Balfe, 1847; Quentin Durward, H.R. Laurent, 1848; Berta, or The Gnome of the Hartzberg, H.T. Smart, 1855; Raymond and Agnes (romantic op), Loder, 1855; Lurline (grand romantic op), Wallace, 1860; She Stoops to Conquer, G.A. Macfarren, 1864; The Magic Pearl, T. Pede, 1873
DNB (T. Seccombe)
A.Bunn: The Stage (London, 1840)
E.Fitzball: Thirty-Five Years of a Dramatic Author’s Life (London, 1859)
Obituaries: The Era (2 Nov 1873); Illustrated London News (8 Nov 1873)
M.Hurd: ‘Opera: 1834–1865’, Music in Britain: the Romantic Age, 1800–1914, ed. N. Temperley (London, 1981), 307–29
E.W.White: A History of English Opera (London, 1983)