This July award-winning composer of music for the stage, screen and concert hall Dominic Muldowney turns 70. His music displays extraordinary versatility and range, finding a home in ballet, concert hall, theatre, and film and television. Central to his orchestral work is an important sequence of concerti which deftly combine complex polyrhythmic experimentation with a fascination with the sounds and gestures of jazz and other musical vernaculars.

One of Muldowney’s finest and most loved works is his 1992 Oboe Concerto, composed for – and later recorded by – Roy Carter and the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. This 25-minute ‘song cycle’ for oboe and orchestra showcases Muldowney’s lyrical gifts. There are teasing, fleeting hints of Ravel and Gershwin, which rub shoulders with elements drawn from jazz and Latin-American rhythms, faded waltzes, and endlessly dovetailing melodies. Muldowney’s orchestrated ‘songs’ are interleaved with recitative-like passages for oboe, accompanied by percussion. You can hear Muldowney’s Oboe Concerto here.

Muldowney studied at the Universities of Southampton and York, and was taught by Jonathan Harvey, Bernard Rands, and David Blake. Muldowney also studied privately with Sir Harrison Birtwistle, who subsequently invited him to be Assistant Music Direction at the National Theatre, London. In 1981 he succeeded Birtwistle as Director and remained in the post until 1997. Between 1996-98 Muldowney was Composer in Association to the Orchestra of St John’s Smith Square; from 1974-76 he was Composer in Residence for the Southern Arts Association. Until 2006 Muldowney taught composition at the Royal Academy of Music, London.  

His work in the theatre deepened his love of Bertolt Brecht, whose poetry he has set to music many times. Indeed, Muldowney contributed musical settings to David Bowie 1983 EP Baal, which comprised songs written for the Brecht play in which Bowie starred on BBC television.

Muldowney’s radio opera The Voluptuous Tango (1996) garnered numerous awards, winning the Prix Italia in 1997, and the Gold Award for Best Radio Drama at 1997 Sony Drama Awards. Its stage premiere was in 2000 as part of the Hoxton New Music Days, London. 

An important sequence of concerti (for piano, saxophone, oboe, violin, percussion, trumpet and trombone) forms the backbone of his orchestral music. They reflect his fascination with vernacular gestures and polyrhythmic experimentation. Other important works include the Three Pieces for Orchestra (1991), the song cycle Lonely Hearts (1988) and three full-length ballets including The Brontës (1994).

Muldowney is an acclaimed composer for TV and film, including The Ploughman’s Lunch (1983), 1984 with Richard Burton and John Hurt (1984), The Ginger Tree (1989), Sharpe (1993),The Peacock Spring (1996), King Lear (1997), Bloody Sunday (2002) and Copenhagen (2002).

On June 23 Muldowney will talk about his music and career in Folkestone as part of the Folkestone New Music series, organised by John Woolrich. Details here.