is Music Director of the English National Opera. An inspirational force in British music, Brabbins has had a busy opera career since his early days at the Kirov and more recently at La Scala, the Bayerische Staatsoper, and regularly in Lyon, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Antwerp. He is a popular figure at the BBC Proms and with most of the leading British orchestras, and regularly visits top international orchestras such as the Royal Concertgebouw, DSO Berlin and Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony (all of whom he conducted last season). Known for his advocacy of British composers, he has also conducted hundreds of world premieres across the globe. He has recorded over 120 CDs to date, including prize-winning discs of operas by Korngold, Birtwistle and Harvey. He was Associate Principal Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra 1994-2005, Principal Guest Conductor of the Royal Flemish Philharmonic 2009-2015, Chief Conductor of the Nagoya Philharmonic 2012-2016, and Artistic Director of the Cheltenham International Festival of Music 2005-2007. He is currently Visiting Professor at the Royal College of Music and Music Director to the Huddersfield Choral Society alongside his duties at ENO, and has for many years supported professional, student and amateur music-making at the highest level in the UK.
In 2017/18 at English National Opera Brabbins conducts the world premiere of Nico Muhly’s Marnie and a revival of Marriage of Figaro – his first productions as Music Director. He launches a Vaughan Williams symphonic cycle with the BBC Symphony at the Barbican (and recorded for Hyperion) and tours Holland with the BBC Scottish Symphony, with whom he continues his Tippett symphony cycle at the Glasgow City Halls and also for Hyperion. He celebrates the London Sinfonietta’s 50th birthday at the Southbank, and conducts the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic at the Holland Festival 2018. In Summer 2017 he conducts Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius with the Philharmonia at Three Choirs and he also conducts the final concert of the Edinburgh International Festival with the BBC Scottish Symphony.
Brabbins’ extensive discography ranges from Romantic to contemporary repertoire. He won the Gramophone Award for Birtwistle’s Mask of Orpheus with the BBC Symphony (NMC), the Cannes Opera Award for Korngold's Die Kathrin with the BBC Concert Orchestra (CPO), and the Grand Prix du Disque in the 2013 opera category for his recording of Jonathan Harvey’s Wagner Dream.
He studied composition in London and conducting with Ilya Musin in Leningrad, subsequently winning first prize at the 1988 Leeds Conductors' Competition, launching his international career.
is a composer and conductor specialising in new music, based in the UK. His music is performed and broadcast worldwide and four portrait discs of his work have been released to date: Mala punica (Winter&Winter, 2017), Signs of Occupation (Métier 2016), mural (confront 2015) and TIDE (Métier 2013). His music can also be heard on the Wandelweiser, HCR and NMC labels. He has written for many leading ensembles and soloists including Plus-Minus, Quatuor Bozzini, London Sinfonietta, New London Chamber Choir, Phoenix Piano Trio, EXAUDI, Ekmeles, Mira Benjamin, Alison Balsom, Apartment House and Anton Lukoszevieze. His music is published by University of York Music Press.
His work is typically focused on music for soloists or small ensembles, exploring pared-down, ‘primary’ musical syntaxes and systems, with particular interests in modality, microtonality, modularity and indeterminacy, embodied/haptic dimensions of sound, and plain-speaking. Major works include Schilderkonst (mixed ensembles, 2003-4), TIDE (ensemble and electronics, 2007-10), the South London Harmonies series (for various ensembles, 2008-11), Mala punica/Walled Garden (eight voices and six instruments, 2008-9/2015), The Freedom of the Earth (chorus and instruments, 2011), Three Trios (piano trio and tapes, 2010-11), Radical Road (voices with stones, 2014) and Primo Libro (6 voices, 2012-16).
Current projects (January 2018) include a new string quartet for Quatuor Bozzini, a choral installation for experimental vocal collective Musarc, and an ongoing series of pieces for CoMA (Contemporary Music for All), with whom he has been closely associated since 2014. He has also recently edited the CoMA Partsong Book, a volume of new experimental music for small vocal groups, published in March 2018.
In 2002 he founded EXAUDI with soprano Juliet Fraser, now regarded as one of the world’s leading vocal ensembles for new music. As well as maintaining a busy international touring and recording schedule with EXAUDI, he is in great demand as a guest conductor, working regularly with instrumental ensembles and orchestras such as Royal Northern Sinfonia, BBCSSO, London Sinfonietta, musikFabrik, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and L’Instant Donné. He has also worked extensively with amateur musicians, both at CoMA and in early music fora and summer schools around the UK. He was Musical Director of New London Chamber Choir and Orlando Chamber Choir (London) from 2007-2011.
He is also active as a writer on new music, and occasionally appears as a pianist. In 2006 he co-founded the ensemble Kürbis with the composer Claudia Molitor, dedicated to the performance of contemporary and experimental chamber music.
He studied composition with Michael Finnissy, and was awarded a PhD in Composition from the University of Southampton in 2005. Previously Associate Head of Composition at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London from 2012-17, he took up the post of Associate Professor of Composition at Durham University in October 2017.