Jonathan Dove

Born 18 July 1959.

British Composer

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Dove: Figures in the Garden

Charles Hazlewood studies Jonathan Dove's Figures in the Garden.

Featured in BBC Music Clips


Jonathan Dove was born in London, the son of architects, and was playing the organ in his local parish church by the age of 12. After reading music at Cambridge, where he studied composition with Robin Holloway, he worked on the music staff at Glyndebourne and as a freelance keyboard player, animateur, composer and orchestrator.

In 1990 he became Music Advisor to the Almeida Theatre in north London and he has written music for many plays there, as well as for productions of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the New York Shakespeare Festival and the National Theatre – where his credits include Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials (2003).

Dove is a prolific composer of operas, including three for the Musica nel Chiostro festival in Italy, the television operas When She Died … (2002) and Man on the Moon (2006), and a chamber opera, Kwasi & Kwame (2007), for Opera OT in the Netherlands.

His highly successful comic opera Flight was premiered by Glyndebourne Touring Opera in 1998 and taken into the summer festival the following year; it has since been issued on CD and revived not only in this country but also in the USA, Germany and Australia. For young audiences he has written The Enchanted Pig for The Young Vic in 2006 and The Adventures of Pinocchio for Opera North in 2007.

Throughout his career Dove has been closely involved in community-based projects and he has a special gift for inspiring and responding to the creativity of the participants, so giving them a sense of ownership in the finished work. He has written three community operas for Glyndebourne, three works for the London Borough of Hackney and the award-winning cantata On Spital Fields (2005) for the Spitalfields Festival, of which he was Artistic Director from 2001 to 2006. His Work in Progress, written for the opening season of The Sage Gateshead in 2005, consists of ‘14 site visits for piano and orchestra’, with film footage of the construction of the building and optional contributions by children’s choir, folk orchestra, jazz orchestra and steel pans.

Dove’s straightforward, essentially diatonic, musical language is especially well suited to choral music and he has composed several popular anthems as well as the large-scale cantata The Passing of the Year (2000). Another strand of his output, inaugurated by his delightful wind serenade Figures in the Garden for the Mozart anniversary year of 1991, consists of music devised to be played by period instruments. For modern symphony orchestra he has written a trombone concerto, Stargazer (2001), a cantata with solo counter-tenor – Hojoki (An Account of My Hut) – for the opening concert of the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s 2006/7 season and several shorter pieces showing his habitual flair for communication and for matching his music to the occasion.

Profile © Anthony Burton

Links & Information

BBC Reviews

  1. Review of Tobias and the Angel

    Tobias and the Angel 2010

    Reviewed by Michael Quinn
    Dove’s church opera is a delight from start to finish.
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