Max Richter (born 22 March 1966) is a German-born British composer who has been an influential voice in post-minimalist composition and in the meeting of contemporary classical and alternative popular musical styles since the early 2000s. Richter is classically trained, having graduated in composition from the Royal Academy of Music and studied with Luciano Berio in Italy, and is also strongly influenced by punk and electronic music.
Richter is known for his prolific output, composing and recording his own music; writing for stage, opera, ballet and screen; producing and collaborating on the records of others; and collaborating with performance, installation and media artists. He has recorded seven solo albums and his music is widely used in cinema.
Richter grew up in the United Kingdom in the county town of Bedford where he was educated at Bedford Modern School. After school he studied composition and piano at the University of Edinburgh, the Royal Academy of Music, and with Luciano Berio in Florence. After finishing his studies, Richter co-founded the contemporary classical ensemble Piano Circus. He stayed with the group for ten years, commissioning and performing works by minimalist musicians such as Arvo Pärt, Brian Eno, Philip Glass, Julia Wolfe, and Steve Reich. The ensemble was signed to Decca/Argo, producing five albums.
In 1996, Richter collaborated with Future Sound of London on their album Dead Cities, beginning as a pianist, but ultimately working on several tracks, as well as co-writing one track (titled Max). Richter subsequently worked with the band over a period of two years, also contributing to the albums The Isness and The Peppermint Tree and Seeds of Superconsciousness. In 2000, Richter worked with Mercury Prize winner Roni Size on the Reprazent album In the Møde. Richter produced Vashti Bunyan's 2005 album Lookaftering and Kelli Ali's 2008 album Rocking Horse.
Considered a "landmark work of contemporary classical music", Max Richter's solo debut Memoryhouse, an experimental album of "documentary music" recorded with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, explores real and imaginary stories and histories. It combines ambient sounds, voices, and poetry readings and includes the tracks "Sarajevo", "November" and "Last Days". BBC Music described the album as "a masterpiece in neoclassical composition." Memoryhouse was first played live by Richter at the Barbican Centre on 24 January 2014 to coincide with a vinyl re-release of the album. Pitchfork gave the re-release an 8.7 rating, commenting on its extensive influence "In 2002, Richter's ability to weave subtle electronics against the grand BBC Philharmonic Orchestra helped suggest new possibilities and locate fresh audiences that composers such as Nico Muhly and Michał Jacaszek have since pursued. As you listen to new work by Julianna Barwick or Jóhann Jóhannson, thank Richter; just as Sigur Rós did with its widescreen rock, Richter showed that crossover wasn't necessarily an artistic curse".
The Blue Notebooks (2004)
On his second album The Blue Notebooks, released in 2004, actress Tilda Swinton reads from Kafka's Blue Octavo and other shadow journals. Pitchfork described the album as "Not only the finest record of the last six months, but one of the most affecting and universal contemporary classical records in recent memory." To mark the 10th anniversary of its release, Richter created a track by track commentary for Drowned in Sound, in which he described the album as a series of interconnected dreams and an exploration of the chasm between lived experience and imagination.
Songs from Before (2006)
In 2006, he released his third solo album, Songs from Before, which features Robert Wyatt reading texts by Haruki Murakami.
24 Postcards in Full Colour (2008)
Richter released his fourth solo album 24 Postcards in Full Colour, a collection of 24 classically-composed miniatures for ringtones, in 2008. The pieces are a series of variations on the basic material, scored for strings, piano, and electronics.
Richter's 2010 album, Infra, is an extension of his 25-minute score for a ballet choreographed by Wayne McGregor and staged at the Royal Opera House. Infra is composed of music written for piano, electronics and string quintet, the full performance score, as well as material that subsequently developed from the construction of the album. Pitchfork described the album as "achingly gorgeous" and The Independent newspaper characterised Infra as "a journey in 13 episodes, emerging from a blur of static and finding its way in a repeated phrase that grows in loveliness."
Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi - The Four Seasons (2012)
Richter's recomposed version of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi - The Four Seasons, was premiered in the UK at the Barbican Centre on 31 October 2012, performed by the Britten Sinfonia, conducted by André de Ridder and with violinist Daniel Hope. Although Richter said that he had discarded 75% of Vivaldi's original material, the parts he does use are phased and looped, emphasising his grounding in postmodern and minimalist music. The album topped the iTunes classical chart in the UK, Germany and the US. The US launch concert in New York at Le Poisson Rouge was recorded by NPR and streamed.
Richter's 2015 album Sleep is described by himself as an eight-hour long cradle song. It is released as download or on CD and vinyl as a one-hour excerpt called from Sleep. The work was strongly influenced by Gustav Mahler's symphonic works. The piece was performed in its entirety on September 27, 2015 from midnight to 8:00 am as the climax of the BBC Radio 3 "Science and Music" weekend. The performance broke several records, including longest live broadcast of a single piece of music in the station's history.
Film and television work
Richter has composed numerous film soundtracks. He executed the score to Ari Folman's Golden Globe-winning film Waltz with Bashir in 2007, supplanting the standard orchestral soundtrack with synth-based sounds. Max Richter also composed music for the independent feature film Henry May Long, starring Randy Sharp and Brian Barnhart, in 2008. Richter wrote the music for Feo Aladag's film Die Fremde (with additional music by Stéphane Moucha).
In 2010 Dinah Washington's This Bitter Earth was remixed with Richter's On the Nature of Daylight for the Martin Scorsese film Shutter Island. In July 2010, On the Nature of Daylight and Vladimir's Blues featured throughout the BBC Two two-part drama Dive, which was co-written by BAFTA-winning Dominic Savage and Simon Stevens. On the Nature of Daylight was also featured in an episode of HBO's television series Luck. Four tracks—"Europe, After the Rain", "The Twins (Prague)", "Fragment", and "Embers"—were used in the six-part 2005 BBC documentary Auschwitz: The Nazis and the Final Solution produced by Laurence Rees. Richter also wrote the soundtrack to Peter Richardson's documentary, How to Die in Oregon, and the score to Impardonnables (2011) directed by André Téchiné.
An excerpt of the song Sarajevo from his 2002 album Memoryhouse was used in the international trailer for the Ridley Scott film Prometheus. The track, November, from the same album, was featured in the international trailer for Terrence Malick's 2012 film, To the Wonder, and in the trailer for Clint Eastwood's 2011 film, J. Edgar. Films featuring Richter's music released in 2011 include French drama Elle s'appelait Sarah by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, and David MacKenzie's romantic thriller Perfect Sense. In 2012 he composed the scores for Cate Shortland's 2012 Australian-German war thriller Lore and Disconnect, directed by Henry Alex Rubin. Richter latest project is the score to Ari Folman's new film The Congress, which was released in 2013.
Richter is also the composer of the original soundtrack for the HBO series The Leftovers created by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta, which was premiered in June 2014. Some of the compositions are included in the albums Memoryhouse and The Blue Notebooks.
Ballet, opera and stage works
Richter wrote the score to Infra as part of a Royal Ballet-commissioned collaboration with dancer Wayne McGregor and artist Julian Opie. The production was staged at the Royal Opera House in London in 2008. In 2011, Richter composed a chamber opera based on neuroscientist David Eagleman's book Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives. The opera was choreographed by Wayne McGregor and premiered at the Royal Opera House Linbury Studio Theatre in 2012. The piece received positive reviews, with London's Evening Standard saying "[it] fits together rather beautifully". Their collaboration continued in April 2014 with Wayne McGregor's 'Kairos'; a ballet set to Richter's recomposition of the Four Seasons and part of a collaborative program involving three different choreographers titled 'Notations' with Ballett Zürich. In April 2014 it was also announced that Richter and McGregor will collaborate again together on a new full-length ballet for summer 2015, as part of the 2014–15 Royal Opera House season. In 2012/13, Richter contributed music to The National Theatre of Scotland's production of Macbeth, starring Alan Cumming. The play opened at New York's Lincoln Centre and subsequently moved to Broadway. The company had previously used Richter's 'Last Days' in their acclaimed production of Black Watch.
In 2010, Richter's soundscape The Anthropocine formed part of Darren Almond's film installation at the White Cube gallery in London. The composer has also collaborated with digital art collective Random International on two projects, contributing scores to the installations Future Self (2012), staged at the MADE space in Berlin, and Rain Room (2012/13) at London's Barbican Centre and MOMA, New York.
Awards and nominations
2008: European Film Award – Best Composer, Waltz with Bashir
2008: Cinema Eye Honors – Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition, Waltz with Bashir
2008: Annie Award – Music in an Animated Feature Production, Waltz with Bashir (Nomination)
2008: International Film Music Critics Association Awards – Breakout Composer of the Year, Waltz with Bashir (Nomination)
2010: Preis der deutschen Filmkritik – Beste Musik, Die Fremde
2012: Stockholm International Film Festival – Best Music Score, Lore
2012: Bayerischer Filmpreis – Filmmusik, Lore
2013: ECHO Klassik -'Klassik ohne Grenzen', Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi - The Four Seasons
Max Richter at the Internet Movie Database
FatCat Records Artist page
Review of Infra in Tokafi Magazine
Review of Infra in Nowness magazine
Review of Sum London Evening Standard, 24 May 2012
Max Richter is a Composer Dumbo Feather magazine, 2012