Francis Pott, born 25 August 1957, is a British composer, pianist, senior academic and university administrator.
He held open music scholarships at Winchester College and Magdalene College, Cambridge, studying composition at the latter with Robin Holloway and Hugh Wood while also pursuing piano studies as a private pupil of Hamish Milne in London. For many years John Bennett Lecturer in Music at St Hilda's College, Oxford, in 2001 he was appointed administrative and academic Head of London College of Music, one of the eight Schools within the University of West London, subsequently becoming Head of both Composition and Research Development in Music, Media and Creative Technologies. In February 2007 he was appointed to the University's first Chair of Composition. He holds the degrees B.A.[Hons], Mus.B. and M.A. [University of Cambridge] and Ph.D. [University of West London], as well as a [Composition] Fellowship of London College of Music [F.L.C.M.]. He was a member of Winchester Cathedral Choir under David Hill from 1991 until 2001, touring the USA, the Netherlands, Brazil, Germany, France and Norway and also participating in many CD recordings and broadcasts.
Pott has received many national awards as a composer and in 1997 gained First Prize in the second S.S.Prokofiev International Composing Competition in Moscow. In the 2004 Barlow International Composition Award (USA) he was placed Second out of a global entry by 362 composers, receiving Honorable Mention. In both 2006 and 2011 he was a nominated finalist in the choral section of the BASCA Annual Composer Awards in London.
Pott's works have been performed and broadcast in some three dozen countries worldwide, issued extensively on CD and published by four major houses in the UK. His monumental Organ Symphony 'Christus' was described in the national press in 1992 as ‘one of the most important organ works of our century’, and again in The Times in 1999 as ‘an astonishingly original composition, compelling in its structural logic and exhilarating in performance: a stupendous achievement’. In the same year and in the same columns his oratorio 'A Song on the End of the World', named after a Czesław Miłosz poem from Nazi-occupied Warsaw and written as the last pre-millennial Elgar Commission of the Three Choirs Festival at Worcester, was hailed as ‘thrilling, apocalyptic and profoundly affecting’. His 89-minute oratorio for tenor solo, double chorus and organ, 'The Cloud of Unknowing', received international acclaim following its premiere in May 2006 at London Festival of Contemporary Church Music (James Gilchrist, tenor, Jeremy Filsell, organ, and the Vasari Singers under their conductor, Jeremy Backhouse) and the CD release by the same artists in September 2007 (Signum Records). A major release (January 2012) by the global label Naxos of Pott's sacred choral works, performed by the Oxford-based chamber choir Commotio under the direction of Matthew Berry, has similarly led to widespread critical plaudits.
Pott's piano music is extensively championed by the Russian-Canadian virtuoso Alexander Tselyakov, and his organ works by the acclaimed British organist Jeremy Filsell, with the latter of whom Pott has enjoyed a fruitful collaborative friendship extending back more than 30 years.
Pott's current compositional projects include a concerto for cor anglais and orchestra (the composer's second instrument being the oboe), a violin concerto and a large-scale symphony. Noted hitherto particularly for his sacred choral music, in the oratorios cited earlier he has deployed a conflation of ancient and modern, sacred and secular, prose-based and poetical texts to form a more explicitly humanist commentary upon the state of the modern world, occasionally using juxtapositions to notably ironic or uncomfortable effect. This preoccupation is extending itself in the current symphony, albeit without text altogether. Disenchanted with the established Church but enduringly interested in the interrogation of faith in an age of scientific rationalism, Pott now describes himself as a reluctant agnostic. His Ph.D. thesis examined these questions to form a commentary on his own published/recorded sacred choral output and on the oratorios, taking for its title the phrase 'An Awkward Reverence', borrowed from Philip Larkin's poem 'Church Going' (which Pott noted as being presented ambiguously as two words where many today might unthinkingly render it as one). In February 2008 Pott was a keynote speaker alongside James MacMillan and Jonathan Harvey at a conference, 'Contemporary Music and Spirituality', convened at London's South Bank Centre by Dr Robert Sholl (for London College of Music) in association with the Royal Musicological Association.
Pott remains active as a pianist and accompanist, uniting this with both composition and academic research. He has appeared frequently as a two-piano duo recitalist with Jeremy Filsell (internationally acknowledged as a virtuoso on two instruments) and another distinguished British pianist, Roger Owens. Pott is currently writing a major critical study of the works of the Russian composer Nikolai Medtner, and in 2003 remained the only Medtner scholar to have examined the major manuscript sources in both Ottawa and Moscow.
Francis Pott lives just outside Winchester with his wife and two children.