Max Richter

Max Richter

Composer • Piano • Keyboards

• Born 1966

Editor's Choice

German-British composer Max Richter occupies a special place in turn-of-the-millennium neo-classical music. His catalogue of film scores, stage music, and performance projects have all contributed to his status as a leading light in the field of contemporary composition. Richter's 2012 re-imagining of Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons enjoyed critical and commercial acclaim following its premiere at London's Barbican Centre. Vivaldi's timeless work has enjoyed over 250 years of popularity and inspired many derivative works. Richter's homage makes use of Vivaldi's themes, using loops and electronics as well as the string orchestra, to create new harmonies and textures. His fresh approach to recomposition is a milestone in the genre and secured his reputation as one of the early 21st century's most interesting composers. This 2019 recording, featuring Fenella Humphreys and conductor Ben Palmer's Covent Garden Sinfonia, was chosen as BBC Music Magazine's Concerto Choice soon after its release.


Max Richter is a German composer, best known for his minimalist works and scores for movies such as Shutter Island, Waltz with Bashir and Arrival. Although classically trained in composition and piano, Max Richter started his career with the minimalist ensemble Piano Circus, which he co-founded during his study years in London. He produced five albums with the ensemble, whilst performing with them the works of contemporary musicians such as Philip Glass and Brian Eno. He started composing and recording his own music shortly after, and has been extremely prolific ever since, writing for stage, screen, bands, artists, installations and such.

His compositional style combines ambient samples with chamber music instrumentation and each of his solo albums is considered a unique gem of minimalist music. From his first Memoryhouse (2002), widely acclaimed as a “landmark work of contemporary music” to the latest album Three Worlds: Music from Woolf Works (2017), which features classical and electronic sounds as well as original voice recordings of Virginia Woolf herself. He rose to fame in the world of film and television too, thanks to the success of Ari Folman’s Golden Globe-winning film Waltz with Bashir (2007) for which Richter wrote an orchestral soundtrack with synth-based sounds. He became best known to a bigger audience in the following years, working on popular TV shows such as Black Mirror and The Leftovers; and working with famous movie directors: the song “On the Nature of Daylight” from his second solo album Blue Notebooks (2004) was used as a theme song for the movie Arrival (2016) by Denis Villeneuve, and in Martin Scorzese’s Shutter Island (2010). The track “Sarajevo” from Memoryhouse was used by Ridley Scott for his Prometheus.

Max Richter best-known work is certainly his solo album Sleep/From Sleep (2015), an infamously eight-hours long composition. The idea, musically influenced by John Cage and Malher’s symphonic works, is that Sleep is a eight hour long lullaby, intended to be heard while asleep, whilst From Sleep is a one-hour reduction of the same work, to be listened to while awake. Richter described the work as a piece of protest music: "It’s protest music against this sort of very super industrialized, intense, mechanized way of living right now. It’s a political work in that sense: a call to arms to stop what we are doing”. Sleep has been performed in its entirety only a few times, the first of which was at BBC Radio 3, and broke several records. Before this performance Richter said “the concert is going to be a bit of an experiment. I expect some people will try to stay up, ohers will sleep. I imagine most will do a bit of both. It’s a voyage of discovery, in which there are no rules”.