Gerard McBurney is a composer of orchestral and chamber works, songs and choral music and theatrical pieces, with a specialist research interest in Russian music

From the mid-1980s, after two years as a postgraduate student at the Moscow Conservatory, Gerard spent time working with Russian and Soviet scholars on reconstructions and transformations of lost or forgotten pieces by Shostakovich, laying the foundations for an international compositional career in the UK, Europe and USA.

Gerard’s current research is focussed on a project reimagining Mussorgsky’s epic folk musical drama Khovanshchina. This builds upon earlier work on Shostakovich’s 1931 Music Hall show Hypothetically Murdered, the 1932 ‘monkey opera’ Orango, the ‘lost’ Second Jazz Suite from 1938, and a chamber version of the 1958 musical comedy Moscow Cheryomushki.

Gerard’s interests outside of Russian and Soviet music and culture have led him to explore Haydn symphonies in concert performance and recording with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen; Beethoven’s Symphony No 7 and The Creatures of Prometheus for the Philharmonia Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, and the Beethovenorchester Bonn; a Wagner dramatisation for the Halle Orchestra and the Manchester International Festival; an original live theatrical version of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; assisting his brother Simon McBurney on a new staging of Berg’s Wozzeck for the Aix Festival with Sir Simon Rattle; a new orchestration of Schoenberg’s Das Buch der hängenden Gärten for Christian Gerhaher; and a semi-staging of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius for the Cincinnati MayFest. Forthcoming projects will focus on the music of Debussy and Fauré.

Gerard has researched and presented many documentary films on subjects including Rachmaninov, Hildegard of Bingen, Donizetti, Mark Anthony Turnage, the Princesse de Polignac and music by composers from the late Soviet period. Between 1982 and 2006, he also wrote and presented many radio programmes, the majority for BBC Radio 3. Over 10 years with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as Artistic Programming Advisor, Gerard explored new ways of dramatising the discovery of orchestral music, including 30 shows for live performance and online streaming as part of the ‘Beyond the Score’ project. This work has continued with new shows for the Halle Orchestra and for the BBC Proms. Further developments of these ideas include online and live projects involving the San Diego Symphony and colleagues from the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California San Diego.

As a composer, notable orchestral and chamber works, theatre pieces, and songs and choral music have included Gerard’s White Nights for English National Ballet; The Airman’s Tale community chamber opera; and Desire and Stones and Trees, both for Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. He is currently working on a large-scale orchestral piece in memory of two Russian friends, both composers who died at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gerard was a senior academic lecturer at the Royal Academy of Music for 12 years and continues his longstanding association as an Honorary Research Fellow.