Glenn Buhr | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Glenn Buhr

Glenn (Arthur) Buhr. Composer, pianist, conductor, b Winnipeg 18 Dec 1954; B MUS (Manitoba) 1979, M MUS (British Columbia) 1981, DMA (Michigan) 1984.

Buhr, Glenn

Glenn (Arthur) Buhr. Composer, pianist, conductor, b Winnipeg 18 Dec 1954; B MUS (Manitoba) 1979, M MUS (British Columbia) 1981, DMA (Michigan) 1984. Glenn Buhr studied composition at the University of Manitoba with Lawrence Ritchey and Casey Sokol, at the University of British Columbia with Stephen Chatman and William Benjamin, and at the University of Michigan with Leslie Bassett, William Albright, and William Bolcom. He won prizes in the CBC National Radio Competition for Young Composers (1984, for Le rêve revient...), the Italian Pro Loco Corciano competition (1985, for Epigrams), and the American Harp Society Competition (1986, for Tanzmusik). Buhr's DMA thesis, the symphonic poem Beren and Lúthien (based on the mythic tale by Tolkien), was premiered by the Toronto Symphony under Andrew Davis 11 Sep 1985 and won a SOCAN award, which led to other performances of this piece and to commissions for orchestral works. These included Lure of the Fallen Seraphim for the Toronto Symphony, Ecstasy for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Ananda for the Montreal International Music Competition, Akasha for a concert celebrating the 25th anniversary of the CBC National Radio Competition for Young Performers, and Jyotir for the Canadian Chamber Ensemble. Buhr also received commissions from Amici (Minuet and Trio with Doubles on a Theme by Mozart), the CBC (Danses Abstraites): the Festival of the Sound (Jazzmusik) and Music at Sharon (Musikalisches Opfer 1988), among others.

Works by Buhr

Glenn Buhr was composer-in-residence with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (WSO) 1990-6. Together with WSO conductor Bramwell Tovey, he founded the Winnipeg New Music Festival in 1990, curating it until 1996. That year, the WSO named Buhr its first artist laureate. Buhr's residency proved fruitful, resulting in works such as Winter Poems and Concerto for Viola (both 1994). Both pieces were recorded by Tovey and the WSO on Winter Poems (1999), which won a Prairie Music Award. In 2000, Stephen Sitarski premiered Buhr's Violin Concerto.

Glenn Buhr was director of new music at the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra 2002-5. In 2003, the Birmingham Royal Ballet premiered his first full-length ballet, Beauty and the Beast, in England. The work toured in 2004, receiving more than 50 performances.

Also an active film composer, Glenn Buhr has written soundtracks for several feature films. Along with his wife, singer and writer Margaret Sweatman, he won a Genie Award for the song "When Wintertime," from the film Seven Times Lucky in 2006. Also in 2006, he premiered his second Piano Concerto with Alex Pauk and the Esprit Orchestra.

Glenn Buhr has been commissioned by the Detroit Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Penderecki Quartet, the Toronto Children's Chorus, and pianist Janina Fialkowska. His music has been played by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Symphony, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Louis Lortie, Tracy Dahl, and Christina Petrowska-Quilico, among others.

Performing, Conducting, Teaching

Glenn Buhr has conducted the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

He maintains an active career as a jazz pianist, working mainly with his jazz ensemble, the Glenn Buhr Quartet. He has released two CDs as a performer, the second of which - Thru the Wounded Sky - was praised by the Globe and Mail as one of the year's best.

Buhr began to teach at Wilfrid Laurier University in 1984 and in 1998 became university research chair (the first person in a creative discipline to do so).

Buhr's Music
Programmatic in content and often Romantic in style, Glenn Buhr's music has been inspired by such writers as Tolkien, Joyce, and Tagore, and has been influenced by such composers as Dukas, Ravel, Schoenberg, Penderecki, and Elliott Carter. The eclectic range of his interests embraces performances as a jazz pianist and the study of the music of other cultures, especially India. Buhr composes quickly and fluently and is often praised for his attractive instrumentation, both in his large-scale orchestral compositions and in his works for diverse chamber ensembles. As an artistic director, he prefers to approach his work from a collaborative and communal perspective, fostering a healthy, diverse creative community that is founded on solid local talent.

Buhr is a member of the Canadian League of Composers and an associate of the Canadian Music Centre.

Selected Compositions

Flux (musical), 2001

Beauty and the Beast (ballet), 2003


Glenn Buhr, 'Musical universals: an aesthetic alternative to the ebony tower,' The Fifth Stream, eds Peter Hatch and John Beckwith, CanMus Documents 6 (Toronto 1991)

'On being a composer of unpopular music,' SoundNotes, 1, Fall-Winter 1991


Epigrams. 1982. Concert band. Fischer 1983

Beren and Lúthien. 1984. Orch. Ms

Lure of the Fallen Seraphim. 1987. Orch. Ms

Ecstasy. 1988. Orch. Ms

Akasha. 1989. Orch. Ms

Jyotir. 1989. Chamb orch. Ms

Three Pieces. String orchestra, 1991. Ms

Winter Poems. Orchestra, 1994. Ms

Faust Flying. Orchestra, 1996. Ms

Symphony No. 1, 'shift' (formerly 'de joie'), 1997, revised 2002. Ms

Ricercare. String orchestra, 2000. Ms

Serenade for J. Chamber orchestra, 2001. Ms

Symphony No. 2, 'Adagio pathétique', 2001. Ms

Orchestra with Soloist

Nocturno. 1982. Guit, string orch. Ms

Ananda (Sanskrit text from the Upanishads). 1989. V, chamber orch (2 mar, 2 piano). Ms

The Cycle of Spring. 1990. Sop, SATB, chamber orch. Ms

Concerto. Trumpet and orchestra, 1990. Ms

Double Concerto. Flute, harp, and orchestra, 1991. Ms

Concerto. Piano and orchestra, 1992. Ms

The Jumblies (text by Edward Lear). Soprano and orchestra, 1993

Concerto. Viola and orchestra, 1994. Ms

Triple Concerto. Clarinet, violin, piano, and orchestra, 1999. Ms

Concerto. Violin and orchestra, 2000. Ms


Trilogy. Fl, piano. Dorn 1981

The Ebony Tower. 1985. Saxophone, wind ensemble, percussion, piano, double-bass (saxophone, piano, double-bass). Ms

Danses Abstraites. 1986. Fl, harp. Ms

Jazzmusik. 1986. Vn, viola, violoncello, double-bass, piano. Ms

Kammermusik. 1986. Fl, clarinet, violin, violoncello, piano. Ms

Tanzmusik. 1986. Hp. Gandharva 1989

Variazioni. 1989. Va, piano. Ms

Minuet and Trio with Doubles on a Theme by Mozart. 1991. Cl, piano, violoncello. Ms

String Quartet No. 1. 1992. Ms

String Quartet No. 2, 'sixblues'. 1996. Ms

...through the heat we're barely moving. Flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano, percussion. 1997. Ms

Licht und Schatten Fantasie. Flute, clarinet, piano, percussion, string quartet, double bass. 1999. Ms

Chronicles and Laments. Clarinet and string quartet. 2001. Ms


Whisper Sleep... 1986. SATB, piano. Gandharva 1989

Season of Spring Days (text by Matsuo Basho). Girls' chorus, piano. 1993. Ms

Cathedral Songs (text by Margaret Sweatman). Children's chorus, distant brass ensembles, percussion ensemble, and orchestra. 1995. Ms

Ritchot Mass. Mixed chorus and string quartet. 1997 (also version without string quartet, 1997). Ms

Three Songs (text by Margaret Sweatman). Mezzo-soprano and string quartet. 1998. Ms

Gloria. Soprano, mixed chorus, and orchestra. 2000


Le rêve revient... 1981. 2 piano. Ms

Foxnocturne. 1996. Ms

Two Pieces (after the Prelude and Fugue in G minor, BWV 861 by Johann Sebastian Bach). 2000. Ms


Population 436. 2006

East of Euclid. 2004

Seven Times Lucky. 2004

The Notorious Mrs. Armstrong. 2001

The Pill. 1999

The Clown at Midnight.1998

Further Reading