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Professor Donald Burrows

Donald Burrows, Professor of Music at the Open University, is recognised internationally as a leading scholar on the life and music of George Frideric Handel. He is the author, co-author or editor of seven books about the composer, and the editor of several major music editions. He also has a special interest in the music of Edward Elgar, reflected in journal articles and music editions. His work is informed by considerable practical experience as a performer, principally as a conductor and keyboard player, but also as a violinist and singer. His teaching at the Open University is represented in course material (printed, audio and video), including contributions on the music of Mozart and Beethoven, and for the course on the Technology of Music. From 1994 to 2010 he was course team chair throughout the presentation period of the second-level course A214 Understanding Music, which was taken by 10,000 students. During his career at the Open University he has been responsible for teaching or directing 56 weeks of the residential schools for courses A304, A314 and A214. He is at present director of the ‘Handel Documents Project’, based at the Open University, to collect together documentary material from Handel’s lifetime relating to the composer: publication, eventually in five volumes, is in progress from Cambridge University Press. In the year 2000 he was awarded the Händelpreis der Stadt Halle, and in 2010 he received the award ‘Best Book of the Year, Classical Music Division’ from the Music Pen Club Japan for the Japanese edition of The Cambridge Companion to Handel. He is a Vice-president of the Händelgesellschaft, Chairman of The Handel Institute, and also Honorary President of the Abingdon and District Musical Society.  

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 with the Abingdon and District Musical Society and the Wantage Choral Society, including a performance of Berlioz's Grande Messe des Morts in Dorchester Abbey. With the Oxford Holiday Orchestra his performances included Elgar’s Symphonies 1 and 2. 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 in Halle-an-der-Saale, 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 performance/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, in his own editions, 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. In 2006-7 he also conducted performances of Handel's church music for the University of Portsmouth, and for the Deal and Walmer Handelian Society.

Principal research interests

All aspects of the music and biography of Handel and his contemporaries, particularly in Britain, Germany and Italy. His music editions of works by Handel are complemented by a collected edition of the orchestrally-accompanied English church music by William Croft. 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, so that his books and articles are complemented by musical 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, and was 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 (which he still serves as a member of the Collections Committee), 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 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. His forthcoming edition of Handel’s L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato received its first performance in April 2013 at the London Handel Festival (cond. Cummings). In 2013 also his edition of Imeneo was performed at the London Handel Festival in March (cond. Cummings) and in the ‘Radio 3 Live in Concert’ series in May (Barbican, cond. Christopher Hogwood).
He is currently director of the 'Handel Documents' project, based at the The Open University’s London Regional Office, supported by a major grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and subvention from the Winton Dean Fund.

Follow this link for more information about Donald Burrows's publications, conference papers and pre-performance talks.




Handel Prize announcement in newspaper
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