What was The Manchester School and which composers were involved?

In the 1950s, a group of rebellious composers formed a group known as 'New Music Manchester', which helped change the face of British music

A railway yard beside a canal in the city of Manchester.

In early-1950s Manchester, a group of musicians and composers studying at the Royal Manchester (now Northern) College of Music changed the trajectory of British music. Harrison Birtwistle, Peter Maxwell Davies, Alexander Goehr, Elgar Howarth and John Ogden became collectively known as The Manchester School, or ‘New Music Manchester’.

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These iconoclastic ‘enfants terribles’ rejected the London traditions of English pastoral music, instead embracing modern tonalities and techniques, more often heard in Europe. They might have gone on to become part of the musical establishment – look no further than Maxwell Davies’s appointment of Master of the Queen’s Music – but they maintained their rebellious, uniquely Mancunian attitudes to music-making.

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