Francis Burt
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Courtesy of Universal Edition/Eric Marinitsch ©

Burt Francis


# Title Year of Originsort icon Duration Instrumentation Category
1 Variationen eines alten Liedes 2012 5m
2 Mariens Wiegenlied - für Chor a capella 2011 5m
3 Mohn und Gedächtnis (für Paul Celan) - für Ensemble 2010
4 Bavarian Gentians - für Kammerchor und 6 Instrumentalisten 2001 13m
5 Mahan - Oper in sieben Bildern 1996 - 2007 2h
6 Blind Visions - für Oboe und kleines Orchester 1994 - 1995 17m
7 Streichquartett II 1993 - 1994 14m
8 Hommage à Jean-Henri Fabre - Eine bukolische Fantasie für fünf Spieler 1992 - 1993 15m
9 Für Alfred Schlee - Ein postmoderner Geburtstagsgruß für Streichquartett 1991 1m
10 For William - für neun Spieler 1988 5m
11 Echoes - für neun Spieler 1988 - 1989 10m
12 Morgana - Fünf Bilder für Orchester 1985 - 1986 15m
13 Und GOtt der HErr sprach - Betrachtungen nach einer goldenen Hochzeit für Mezzosopran, Bariton, Baß, zwei Chöre und großes Orchester 1976 - 1983 40m
14 Unter der blanken Hacke des Monds - für Bariton und Orchester nach Gedichten von Peter Huchel 1974 - 1976 17m
15 Barnstable oder Jemand auf dem Dachboden - Oper in einem Akt nach dem Schauspiel "Barnstable" von James Saunders in der Übersetzung von Hilde Spiel 1967 - 1969 55m
16 Fantasmagoria per orchestra - für Orchester 1963 14m
17 Der Golem - Ballett in einem Bild von Erika Hanka, Yvonne Georgi und Francis Burt 1959 - 1963 35m
18 Espressione orchestrale 1958 - 1959 13m
19 The Skull - Kantate für Tenor und Orchester, revidierte Fassung 1955 10m
20 Duo - für Klarinette und Klavier 1954 9m
21 The Skull - Cantata for Tenor and Piano from the play "The Revenger's Tragedy" by Cyril Tourneur 1953 - 1954 8m
22 Jamben - für Orchester 1953 10m
23 Musik für zwei Klaviere 1953 10m
24 Volpone or The Fox - Oper in vier Akten nach dem Schauspiel von Ben Johnson 1952 - 1958 abendfüllend
25 Serenata notturna - für Oboe, Klarinette und Fagott 1952
26 Hüte 1952 2m
27 Streichquartett 1951 - 1952 14m
28 Two Songs of David - for chorus a cappella 1951 6m
29 Three little piano pieces for J. J. 1949 3m

General Information

Year of Birth:  1926
Date of Birth:  28. April 1926
Place of Birth:  London
Country of Birth: 
Year of Death:  2012
Date of Death:  3. October 2012
Nationality:  ,


Born 28 April 1926 in London, Burt found himself drawn to music at an early age. After leaving school and a short intermezzo in the field of natural sciences, he committed himself completely to music. His decision to become a composer faced an enormous obstacle: for three-and-a-half years (1944-1948) Burt had to serve in the army. On his return to England, he began to study in Oxford and at the Royal Academy of Music in London. In 1951, he moved to Berlin for three years to perfect his composing skills. There, he met Boris Blacher, in whom he found the teacher he had always been looking for. In 1956, after having spent a year in Rome, as well as one in London, Burt decided to move to Vienna, where he already knew Gottfried von Einem, and where he was able to find the musical atmosphere corresponding so much to his own character. Vienna was the place where the latent esspressivo, which characterises his musical language, pervaded even the most experimental and most modern works.


Quote Francis Burt: "More interesting than the question why I came here, is why I stayed. Firstly, in those days you could live in Vienna and be poor without having to feel embarrassed. This was quite important to me, as I had little money then and was not really prepared to take up a 'real' job that would have earned me any. On the other hand, I always felt that this city - Nestroy's city - is the best possible antidote to the education I enjoyed. This is why I stayed - I always say temporarily permanently - until I was offered a professorship for composition and music theory at the University of Music and Performing Arts. That was the time when I had to cross out the word temporarily!" (quoted freely from "Musikalische Dokumentation Francis Burt" - Hartmut Krones, Pub. Music Collection of the Austrian National Library, 1990)


PeriodEducationInstrumentTeacherEducation OrganisationLocation

St. Edward's School, Oxford: Higher School Certificate (physics, chemistry, mathematics)

1944 - 1945

University of Cambridge, Cambridge: Army officer training (engineer)

1946 - 1947

Nigeria (Aba, Kaduna, Lagos): lieutenant

1948 - 1951

composition (Howard Ferguson)

1949 - 1951

Summer School of Music, Bryanston

1949 - 1951

Summer School of Music, Dartington

1951 - 1954





1973 - 1992

professorship (composition)


Organisation of the first long night of contemporary sounds at the Vienna Konzerthaus as Vice-president of the Austrian division

1989 - 1991

Institute for Electro-Acoustics: Head of Institute


professor emeritus

Performances (Selection)




Cheltenham Festival


Cheltenham Festival


Württembergische Staatsoper Stuttgart


Festival Hall London




Festival Hall London


Landestheater Hannover


Theater an der Wien


St. Louis, USA


to 1978: National Opera Belgrade




Festival de Paris


Barbican Centre London


Festival Hall London


Francis Burt Days


Romanian Athaneum


Bled (Slovenia): "Three Little Piano Pieces for J. J.", "Hommage à Jean-Henri Fabre", etc.


Austrian Composers' Association gala concert


gala concert "85 years ISCM"



PeriodAwardCompositionAwarding Organisation



Fondation Européenne de la Culture: fellowship




promotional award


recognition award for music




Grand Silver Honorary Medal


honorary membership


honorary membership


honorary membership


Austrian Honorary Cross I. Class for Sciences and the Arts

Description of Style

After having intensive contact with classical and romantic music literature, in particular during school, a 16-month period as army officer in Nigeria (1947/1948) had a relieving, as well as an inspiring effect on him. It was the drum music of the Ibo tribes in south-eastern Nigeria that sparked his interest in musical gesture and dance-like, kinaesthetic characteristics of music. Not that we would find any traces of the elements of Ibo music in his works, but most of his early pieces were characterised by rhythmic and dance-like elements. Thus, the opera "Volpone", which had its world premiere at the Würtembergische Staatsoper in 1960, may be called a dance opera. Although it does not include any ballet, the opera is full of elements of dance and music depicting the movements of the singers with musical gestures. The ballet "Der Golem", first performed in Hanover in 1965, plays a key role in Burt's development. Inspired by its content, which is pervaded by ecstatic, religious emotions, the music becomes increasingly more melodic and expressive; the hierarchy of a rigid metre is weakened. In one of his later key pieces "Unter der blanken Hacke des Mondes," elements of sound texture come to the fore. In his later works, these elements, which had been composed partly polyphonically at the beginning, now turn almost completely into polyphony. The metre is increasingly weakened and in his latest works the beat practically loses its entire structural function and tempo is submitted to constant change.


"I now use a style which is somehow influenced by electronic music: floating, with only slightly perceptible pulse, but with sound layers and textures and an accumulating superimposition of lines which generates a multilinear structure. The musical gesture remains the origin of all my works. My music has always been tonal in one way or the other. The last remains of classic, functional harmony, often used ironically in 'Volpone', have disappeared over the years, but centres of tension are almost always noticeable as a phenomenon of tension in terms of tonality and not as a synonym for functional, tonal harmony."


Francis Burt

Press Reviews


I am old and I am listening. Everybody suspecting lethargic resignation behind this statement does not know Francis Burt. His 75th birthday, last April, has in no way tempted him to retire from his musical life, neither as a concertgoer nor as a composer: "I know what I have still got to do." Even if the former university professor for composition and music theory enjoys his official retirement on a farm in eastern Styria, his contacts to former students have not stopped, despite having been given emeritus status nine years ago. Honest interest in the artistic intentions and activities of the younger generations, constant musical curiosity and the resulting influence on his own music keep the composer Francis Burt on his toes. 

Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde Wien (Walter Weidringer) 


30. March 1998

That way Burt's second string quartet from 1992/93 with its many oscillating sound textures, its convincingly expressed thoughts and its well-proportioned sections was presented. The contents fall into place to form clearly distinguishable "pictures", telling their stories without using particular loudness, and convince with clarity and consistency. [...] With four carefully chosen pieces at the end of the Linzer Burt-Tage, excluding those played at the theatre, a composer with truly unique profile emerged. Today, his music lives carrying no labels, but full of persuasiveness and significance. It also pulls the rug from underneath these omnipresent, generalising argumentative chains, which use catch phrases such as "20th century; modern; incomprehensible".

Oberösterreichische Nachrichten (Franz Zamazal)