Max Richter


Max Richter [rik-ter] (b. 1966) is a British composer. He studied composition and piano at the University of Edinburgh, the Royal Academy of Music, and with Italian composer Luciano Berio in Florence. After finishing his studies, Richter co-founded the contemporary classical ensemble Piano Circus. He stayed with the group for ten years, commissioning and performing works by Arvo Pärt, Brian Eno, Philip Glass, Julia Wolfe, and Steve Reich. The ensemble was signed to Decca/Argo, producing five albums.

In 1996, Richter collaborated with Future Sound of London on their album ‘Dead Cities,’ beginning as a pianist, but ultimately working on several tracks, as well as co-writing one track (titled ‘Max’). He subsequently worked with the band over a period of two years, also contributing to the albums ‘The Isness’ and ‘The Peppermint Tree and Seeds of Superconsciousness.’ In 2000, he worked with Mercury Prize winner Roni Size on the Reprazent album ‘In the Møde.’ Richter produced English singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan’s 2005 album ‘Lookaftering’ and Sneaker Pimps lead singer Kelli Ali’s 2008 album ‘Rocking Horse.’

In 2002, Richter released his solo debut ‘Memoryhouse,’ an experimental album of ‘documentary music’ recorded with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, which explores real and imaginary stories and histories. It combines ambient sounds, voices, and poetry readings and includes the tracks ‘Sarajevo,’ ‘November,’ and ‘Last Days.’ BBC Music described the album as ‘a masterpiece in neoclassical composition.’ It went out of print several years later, but was re-released in 2009. Four tracks—’Europe, After the Rain,’ ‘The Twins (Prague),’ ‘Fragment,’ and ‘Embers’—were used in the six-part 2005 BBC documentary ‘Auschwitz: The Nazis and the Final Solution’ produced by Laurence Rees.

On his second album ‘The Blue Notebooks,’ released in 2004, actress Tilda Swinton reads from Kafka’s ‘Blue Octavo’ for the track ‘Shadow Journals.’ ‘Pitchfork’ described the album as ‘Not only the finest record of the last six months, but one of the most affecting and universal contemporary classical records in recent memory.’ In 2006, he released his third solo album, ‘Songs from Before,’ which features Soft Machine founder Robert Wyatt reading texts by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. His fourth solo album ’24 Postcards in Full Colour,’ a collection of 24 classically-composed miniatures for ringtones, was released in 2008. The pieces are a series of variations on the basic material, scored for strings, piano, and electronics.

Richter’s 2010 album, ‘Infra,’ is an extension of his 25-minute score for a ballet choreographed by Wayne McGregor and staged at the Royal Opera House. Infra is composed of music written for piano, electronics and string quintet, the full performance score, as well as material that subsequently developed from the construction of the album. Pitchfork described the album as ‘achingly gorgeous’ and ‘The Independent’ newspaper characterized it as ‘a journey in 13 episodes, emerging from a blur of static and finding its way in a repeated phrase that grows in loveliness.’

In 2012, Richter’s recomposed version of Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons’ premiered in the UK at the Barbican Centre, performed by the Britten Sinfonia, conducted by André de Ridder and with violinist Daniel Hope. Although Richter said that he had discarded 75% of Vivaldi’s original material, the parts he does use are phased and looped, emphasizing his grounding in postmodern and minimalist music. The album topped the iTunes classical chart in the UK, Germany and the US. The US launch concert in New York at Le Poisson Rouge was streamed by NPR.

Richter has composed numerous film soundtracks. He executed the score to Ari Folman’s Golden Globe-winning film ‘Waltz with Bashir’ in 2007, supplanting the standard orchestral soundtrack with synth-based sounds. Max Richter also composed music for the independent feature film ‘Henry May Long,’ starring Randy Sharp and Brian Barnhart, in 2008. He also wrote the music for Feo Aladag’s 2010 film ‘Die Fremde’ (with additional music by Stéphane Moucha).

In 2010, Dinah Washington’s ‘This Bitter Earth’ was remixed with Richter’s ‘On the Nature of Daylight’ for the Martin Scorsese film ‘Shutter Island.’ Richter also wrote the soundtrack to Peter Richardson’s documentary, ‘How to Die in Oregon,’ and the score to ‘Les Impardonnables’ (2011) directed by André Téchiné. His next project was the score for Cate Shortland’s 2012 Australian-German war thriller ‘Lore and Disconnect,’ directed by Henry Alex Rubin. The following year he composed the score to Ari Folman’s new film ‘The Congress.’

In 2010, Richter’s soundscape ‘The Anthropocine’ formed part of Darren Almond’s film installation at the White Cube gallery in London. The composer has also collaborated with digital art collective rAndom International on two projects, contributing scores to the installations Future Self (2012), staged at the MADE space in Berlin, and Rain Room (2012/13) at London’s Barbican Centre and MOMA, New York.

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