Following the completion of his undergraduate studies in History and Music at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, (BA 1968; PGCE 1969; MA 1971), Donald Burrows worked as a provincial musician in Oxfordshire, teaching music, performing and conducting. He became a part-time postgraduate student at the Open University in 1977, completing his PhD on the subject of Handel and the English Chapel Royal in the Reigns of Queen Anne and King George I in 1981, the first PhD to be awarded in the University's Music Department. In 1982 he became a Lecturer in Music at the Open University, receiving promotion to Senior Lecturer in 1989 and to Professor of Music in 1995. From 1991 to 2002 he was also Head of the Music Department.
While in Oxfordshire he conducted a substantial repertory of choral and orchestral music, including a performance of Berlioz's Grande Messe des Morts in Dorchester Abbey. He conducted his first complete performance of Handel's Messiah in 1971, marking the start of a specialist interest in Handel's music. In 1972-3 he reconstructed Handel's Anthem on the Peace, for which he conducted the first modern performance in 1973, accompanied by his first substantial article, in The Musical Times for December 1973. This was followed by the first modern performances of some of Handel's Chapel Royal music in 1975, and of orchestrally-accompanied anthems by William Croft in 1979. In 1990 he conducted Handel's oratorio Theodora at the Händel-festspiele at Halle-an-der-Salle, the city of Handel's birth. He has given lectures and seminars about Handel's music in Britain, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, the USA, Canada, Australia and Japan. In 2004 he co-directed a perfromance/study day on Handel's church music for the London Handel Festival, conducting part of the evening concert performance. On 20 March 2005, coinciding with the publication of his book Handel and the English Chapel Royal (Oxford University Press), he conducted a programme of Handel's Music for the Chapel Royal at the Episcopal Cathedral of St John, Albuquerque, New Mexico (USA), with the Cathedral Chamber Choir and a period-instrument orchestra, the Santa Fe Pro Musica. This was part of the 2005 International Handel Festival at Albuquerque and Santa Fe, running jointly with the biennial conference of the American Handel Society. The concert programme consisted of music by Handel that is little known, and some of which was receiving its first American performances, all performed from editions prepared by Donald Burrows. In 2006-7 he also conducted performances of Handel's church music for the University of Portsmouth and the Deal and Walmer Handelian Society.
All aspects of the music and biography of Handel and his contemporaries, particularly in Britain, Germany and Italy. Other interests include concert life in Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the music of Edward Elgar, techniques for the study of musical sources (manuscripts, printed music and recordings), performance practice and the development of musical styles in Europe c. 1700-1900. Professor Burrows's publications reflect his wish to balance (and, where possible, connect) biographical, historical or social topics with the practical and stylistic aspects of music. His books and articles are complemented by musical editions; he has an interest in issues concerning the editing of musical texts and the presentation of editions for modern performers. Since 1992 he has been General Editor of the Novello Handel Edition, and since 1983 a member of the Redaktionskollegium (Editorial Board) of the Hallische Händel-Ausgabe. He has been a member of the Vorstand of the Georg Friedrich Händel-Gesellschaft since 1987 and a Vice-President since 1999. He was a founding member of the Handel Institute in 1983, and is now Chairman of the Trustees and Council. He was a member of the Advisory Board for the Maryland Handel Festival (University of Maryland, College Park, USA) from 1988 to 2001: he is also a member of the Advisory Board for Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. From 1996 to 2000 he was a Board member of the Gerald Coke Handel Foundation, and from 2000-2002 a member of the Advisory Committee for the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, The British Library. In 2000 he was awarded the Händel-Preis der Stadt Halle. Since June 2004 he has contributed to programmes on BBC Radio3 and Radio 4 on musical topics, including English choral singing and Handel's major oratorios. In April 2009 he appeared on The One Show, interviewed by Giles Brandreth on the River Thames about Handel's Water Music.
His edition of Handel's oratorio Samson received its first performances in February 2005 at Berkeley, California (four performances by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, cond. Nicholas McGegan) and in May 2005 at the London Handel Festival (St. George's Church, Hanover Square, cond. Lawrence Cummings). His new edition of Handel's opera Ariodante for the Hallische Händel-Ausgabe, published in 2008, received its first performance at the Halle Händel-festspiele in June 2007. Research for these music editions has been supported by a British Academy Research Grant.
He is currently director of the 'Handel Documents' project, based the The Open University's London Regional Office and supported by a major grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
Follow this link for more information about Donald Burrows's publications, conference papers and pre-performance talks.