In the last 35 years Kevin Volans has worked with quartets: Kronos,
Smith Quartet, Duke Quartet, Arditti Quartet, pianists: Barry Douglas,
Marc-André Hamelin, Peter Donohoe, Jill Richards, conductors: Michael
Tilson Thomas, Marek Janowski, Alan Buribayev, Yan Pascal Tortelier,
orchestras: the San Francisco Symphony, BBC Symphony, Bayerische
Rundfunk Symphonieorchester, Royal Flemish Philharmonic, BBC
Singers, percussionists: Robyn Schulkowsky, Jonny Axelsson, SISU and
many others, as well as dance companies like Siobhan Davies, Shobana
Jeyasingh, White Oak, Jonathan Burrows and artists: William Kentridge,
Juergen Partenheimer, Jose-Manuel Ballester.
Principal performances in the last years include the National Centre for the
Performing Arts, Beijing, the Berliner Musikfest,Vienna State Opera,
the Salzburger Festspiele, the Lincoln Center NY, Dokumenta Kassel,
the Pompidou Centre Paris, Concertgebouw Amsterdam,
Kunstmuseum Bonn, the Chicago Institute of Fine Arts, the
Edinburgh Festival, the Barbican, South Bank, Wigmore Hall, London
and several times in the BBC Proms.
He was born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, and studied at the
University of the Witwatersrand with later with Karlheinz Stockhausen
and Mauricio Kagel in Cologne. He moved to Ireland in 1986 and has
been an Irish citizen since 1994. He lives in Co. Cork.
After a productive collaboration with the Kronos quartet in the 1980s his
work, principally in the field of chamber and orchestral music, has been
regularly performed worldwide. The Kronos discs, White Man Sleeps and
Pieces of Africa broke all records for string quartet disc sales.
In 1997 the BBC Music Magazine listed him as one of the 50 most
important living composers and he was described by the Village Voice
(New York) as “one of the most original and unpredictable voices on the
In 1999 the South Bank in London hosted a 50th birthday celebration of
his work and for his 60th the Wigmore Hall in London organised a “Kevin
Volans Day” of concerts. Subsequent to this latter event he was given the
Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award for the best chamber work
performed in Britain in 2009. He has been the featured composer in
several European festivals of contemporary music and he was the
featured composer in Prague in November 2017. 2017 saw 9 world premieres
of his work.
In 2019 birthday concerts of his work were held in London (Wigmore Hall), Johannesburg, and Rome.
He has taught many of Ireland’s distinguished young composers: Deirdre
Gribben, Elaine Agnew, Deirdre MacKay, Jennifer Walshe, Andrew
Hamilton, Jonathan Nangle, Juergen Simpson, Simon O’Connor, and a
number of others, as well as several international, award-winning
composers outside Ireland.
There are some 48 CDs and videos featuring his music currently available.
His work is performed regularly worldwide.