Agustín Fernández (composer)

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Agustín Fernández (born 1958[1]) is a Bolivian composer who has lived and worked in the United Kingdom since 1984.


In Bolivia Fernández began musical life as a child, singing and playing the charango in folk clubs, including Peña Ollantay, Peña Naira and the country's then only television channel. Still a teenager he worked as a violinist and then principal viola with the National Symphony Orchestra and taught harmony at the National Conservatoire, while studying composition with Alberto Villalpando.[2] He later studied in Japan with Takashi Iida and with Akira Ifukube, while working part-time at the Bolivian Embassy and as a language instructor at Nichisei Gakuin and later at Komagane Training Institute.[3]

In the United Kingdom, after obtaining an MMus at Liverpool University and a PhD at City University Fernández was composer-in-residence at Queen's University Belfast since 1990 until 1994.[1] Following a year's lectureship at Dartington College of Arts,[2] he worked as a composition lecturer at Newcastle University from 1996 until 2007 and Professor of Composition there from 2007 until his resignation in 2019.[4][5]

Fernández's work has been performed and acclaimed internationally, featuring at festivals such as Focus!, Summergarden (New York), ISEA (Montreal), International New Music Week (Bucharest), Latin American Music Festival (Caracas), Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, London International Opera Festival and many others. Some of his folk arrangements have been singled out for their wide appeal.[6]

Misa de Corpus Christi, first premièred in La Paz under the twenty year-old composer's direction in 1978, was later destroyed and then recomposed in 2009 for performances in 2010 and 2011.[7]

While his first electroacoustic work, the opera Teoponte, had mixed reviews on its London première (1988), the also electroacoustic Wounded Angel (1989) was generally well received internationally and was released twice on commercial recordings. His second opera, The Wheel (1993), was generally considered a success on its London première by Royal Opera House's now extinct Garden Venture. Also well received were two subsequent works for baritone, choir and orchestra: Approaching Melmoth, premièred in 2000 with Thomas Allen as the soloist, and Notes from Underground (2016). Upon the New York première of his String Quartet No. 2 Sin tiempo (a Koussevitzky commission), one reviewer commented “…this city needs a Fernández festival”.[8]

Fernández has been a regular visitor to Romania for speaking engagements and performances of his work, especially at the Sigismund Toduță International Festival in Cluj-Napoca and also at the SIMN Festival in Bucharest. In 2018 the Music Academy Gheorghe Dima of Cluj-Napoca awarded him an honorary doctorate.[9]

In his native country he has been awarded prizes such as Golden Charango (1971), Honour to Merit (1975), National Composition Prize Sesquicentennial of the Republic (1975) and Meritorious Citizenship of Cochabamba (2016).

As was sensationally reported by the British tabloid press, in March 2020 Fernández was found guilty of sexual offences, for which Newcastle Crown Court gave him a lengthy custodial sentence. He was absent from the ruling.[10][11] Fernández has vehemently denied the accusations made against him and considers himself the target of a miscarriage of justice. He has also refuted reports in the tabloid press of his having fled after being sentenced,[12] stressing that he was absent from the country at the time of his trial. The issue remains unresolved.[13]


  1. ^ a b Sachs, Joel (2001). "Fernández, Agustín family". Grove Music Online. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.46947. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Komponisten A-Z". Tre Media Musikverlage Karlsruhe. Tre Media. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  3. ^ "Short biography". Agustin Fernandez, Composer. Retrieved 2 February 2023.
  4. ^ "Agustín Fernández". British Music Collection. 4 April 2009.
  5. ^ "End of an era <". 30 September 2019.
  6. ^ "Músico Agustin Fernandez se defiende de sentencia 23 años". Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  7. ^ "Tarata se regocijó con la Misa de Corpus Christi de Agustín Fernández". Los Tiempos. 1 November 2010. Retrieved 19 February 2023.
  8. ^ delarue. "A Stunning, Harrowing, Relevant Night at This Year's Momenta Festival". Lucid Press. Retrieved 19 February 2023.
  9. ^ Suteu, C, 'DHC în 3D: Doctor Honoris Causa cu valențe tridimensionale la Academia de Muzică din Cluj', in Actualitatea Muzicală No. 7, July 2018
  10. ^ Murray, Kieran (23 March 2020). "Newcastle University lecturer on the run from 23-year jail sentence for abuse". ChronicleLive.
  11. ^ "Former Newcastle lecturer on the run after sex crimes conviction".
  12. ^ "Newcastle University Professor". Retrieved 23 March 2020.
  13. ^ "Agustin Fernandez dice que dejó Inglaterra en forma legal". Retrieved 13 April 2020.

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