Joseph Phibbs was born in London, and studied at The Purcell School, King’s College London, and Cornell University. His teachers have included Param Vir, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, and Steven Stucky.
Described by BBC Music Magazine as “one of the most successful composers of his generation”, Phibbs’s works have been championed by some of the world’s leading conductors, including Edward Gardner, Gianandrea Noseda, Sakari Oramo, Vassily Petrenko, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Alexander Shelley, and Leonard Slatkin. Rivers to the Sea, the first of several large-scale orchestral works composed in recent years, was premiered to acclaim in 2012 by the Philharmonia Orchestra under Esa-Pekka Salonen, and has since received numerous performances in the UK and abroad, winning a British Composer Award in 2013.
His most recent large-scale work is a Clarinet Concerto, a three-way commission between the soloist, Philharmonia Orchestra, and Malmo Symphony Orchestra, and first performed in 2017 by Mark van de Wiel and the Philharmonia Orchestra under Edward Gardner. A recording was released recently on Signum, attracting critical acclaim in The Sunday Times, Classic FM, Classical Source, and elsewhere. He has also composed concertos for Evelyn Glennie (Bar Veloce), Sarah Williamson (Concertino for clarinet, strings, and harp), and Nicholas Daniel (Towards Purcell, a concertante work for oboe, horn, harp), as well as Evian Variations (Dacha Savoyarde) for cello and orchestra, premiered under Laurence Dale at the 2013 Evian Festival.
Other orchestras to have performed and commissioned his works include the London Symphony Orchestra, Washington Symphony Orchestra, and BBC Symphony Orchestra, for which he has written five works to date, including In Camera, Lumina (Last Night of the Proms), and Partita, for which he received a Koussevitzky Music Foundation Award.
His instrumental music includes three string quartets, the most recent receiving its premiere at Carnegie Hall in 2018 by Belcea Quartet, before coming to the Wigmore Hall earlier this year. String Quartets 1 and 2 were commissioned by Piatti Quartet and Navarra Quartet respectively, and are performed regularly throughout Europe, with No.2 featuring at this year’s Three Choirs Festival. A work for viola and piano, Letters from Warsaw, has been performed extensively by its commissioner Krzysztof Chorzelski, on whose family background it is based.
Additional chamber works have been performed and commissioned by London Sinfonietta, Chroma, Orchestra of the Swan, Britten Sinfonia, Tamsin Waley-Cohen, Michael Chance, Katya Apekisheva, Iestyn Davies, Tim Mead, James Boyd, and Andrew Matthews-Owen (Richard Thomas Foundation commission), and have appeared at festivals including Aldeburgh, Three Choirs, Cheltenham, Spitalfields, Tanglewood, and Hampstead Arts. Over the last decade he has been closely associated with the Presteigne Festival, for which director George Vass has commissioned numerous works, including (jointly with Nova Music Opera and Cheltenham Festival) the chamber opera Juliana, to a libretto by Laurie Slade.
Large-scale choral works include Rainland (commissioned and premiered by Phillip Scott), Tenebrae, and Choral Songs of Homage (commissioned by Aldeburgh Music Club for the Britten centenary). His unaccompanied choral works are performed regularly, and include Nesciens Mater (commissioned and recorded by The Sixteen/Harry Christophers), a Missa Brevis, and the carol ‘Lullay, Lullay, thou lytil child’ (toured by The Sixteen/Christophers last Christmas). His most recent choral work, Night Songs, was recently released by Chromium Music Group.
From 2008-2018 Phibbs was a director of The Britten Estate Limited. He has held teaching positions at Wells Cathedral School (2009-2010), King’s College London (2011-14), and Cambridge University (supervisor, 2014-15), and currently teaches composition part time at The Purcell School.