The music of Sebastian Forbes found its focus through a series of chamber works in the 1960s. These include the Piano Trio (1964) which, as Conrad Wilson wrote in The New Grove (1981), ‘established him as a composer of intellectual toughness’, and culminated in a joint share of the 1969 Radcliffe Award with his first String Quartet, ‘a landmark in an exciting maturity’ (The Strad).
Significant commissions followed, including orchestral works for the BBC Proms and the Edinburgh Festival, and pieces for leading recitalists and chamber music groups. He was awarded the Cambridge MusD for Composition in 1977. He has often conducted performances of his music, including his Sonata for 8 at a ‘Round House’ Prom in 1979 and abroad – ‘a beautiful and thrilling work, with a fine sense of colour … a really attractive piece, very well performed by the Nash Ensemble under the positive direction of the composer’ (The Times).
Sebastian has continued to compose for orchestras, ensembles, recitalists and choirs, including two settings for Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, of the Evening Canticles. Among works recorded on CD are Triple Canon for trumpet and digital delays (1988) and commissioned works for Bristol and Ely Cathedrals (1991 and 1995). Significant among more recent works are Sonata-Rondo for piano, the fourth and fifth String Quartets, and Interplay 2 for four pianists (two pianos), all of which exemplify his characteristic “subtle harmonic plotting” (Revised New Grove, 2000).
Sebastian Forbes is Professor of Music at the University of Surrey (Emeritus Professor from 2006). His teaching covers a wide range besides composition, and in addition he is active as a conductor, organist and CD producer.