Blending classical, electronic, and rock influences into a style he calls "post-classical," composer/programmer Max Richter ignores boundaries in favor of haunting, strangely familiar sounds. This approach made him an in-demand composer for film and other types of performing arts, as well as an acclaimed artist in his own right. Born in Germany in the mid-'60s, Richter and his family moved to the U.K. when he was still a little boy; by his early teens, he was listening to the canon of classical music, as well as modern composers including Philip Glass, whose sound was a major influence on Richter. The Clash, the Beatles, and Pink Floyd were also important, along with the early electronic music scene; inspired by artists such as Kraftwerk, Richter built his own analog instruments. He studied composition and piano at Edinburgh University, the Royal Academy of Music, and in Florence with Luciano Berio. Richter then became a founding member of the Piano Circus, a contemporary classical group that played works by Glass, Brian Eno, Steve Reich, Arvo Pärt, and Julia Wolfe, and also incorporated found sounds and video into their performances.
After ten years and five albums, Richter left the group and became more involved in the U.K.'s thriving electronica scene, collaborating with the Future Sound of London on Dead Cities (which features a track named after him) and Isness; he also contributed orchestrations to Roni Size's In the Mode. Richter's own work evolved from the Xenakis-inspired music of his early days into something that included his electronic and pop influences: 2002's Memoryhouse introduced his mix of modern composition, electronica, and field recordings, and the following year's stunning Blue Notebooks -- inspired by Kafka's Blue Octavo Notebooks -- showed off a more streamlined, and more affecting, version of this sound. Released in 2006, Songs from Before paired Richter's plaintive sound with texts written by Haruki Murakami and delivered by Robert Wyatt. Two years later, 24 Postcards in Full Colour, a collection of elaborate ringtones, was released, and 2008 also saw the release of Richter's score for the film Waltz with Bashir.
Richter worked on several other film scores, including music for Benedek Fliegauf's Womb, Alex Gibney's My Trip to Al Qaeda, and David MacKenzie's The Last Word. Another scoring project was Infra, which Richter was commissioned to compose in 2008. A ballet inspired by T.S. Eliot's classic poem "The Wasteland," Infra premiered that November at London's Royal Opera House. Richter re-recorded and expanded his music for the 2010 album Infra, his fourth release for Fat Cat Records. Throughout the 2010s, Richter alternated between soundtrack work and other projects, including the award-winning scores to Die Fremde and Lore and Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi - The Four Seasons, an avant-garde reworking of the composer's timeless set of violin concertos. Disconnect, the score to Henry-Alex Rubin's film about the impact of technology on relationships, was released in 2013. His score for Wadjda, which revolved around an 11-year-old girl and was the first feature-length film made by a Saudi Arabian woman (director Haifaa Al-Mansour), arrived that July. Richter issued three more film scores that year, including the music to Ritesh Batra's Lunchbox and Ruairí Robinson's sci-fi excursion The Last Days on Mars.
In 2014, Richter launched an ongoing mentorship program for aspiring young composers. The following year saw the arrival of Sleep, an eight-hour ambient piece scored for piano, strings, electronics, and vocals, which Richter described as a "lullaby for a frenetic world and a manifesto for a slower pace of existence." The piece premiered at a Berlin performance where the audience was given beds instead of seats. Sleep and From Sleep, a one-hour adaptation, were released in September 2015. Richter returned in 2016 with the music for an episode of Black Mirror. It was soon followed by 2017's Three Worlds: Music from Woolf Works, which drew from his score for Wayne McGregor's three-act Royal Ballet production inspired by three of Virginia Woolf's most acclaimed novels. ~ Heather Phares