Edward Top

Sessional Lecturer, Composition

Dipl. (Rotterdam Conservatoire), MMus (King’s College London)

Music Building



Composer Edward Top studied composition and violin at the Rotterdam Conservatoire in The Netherlands. He primarily studied with Peter-Jan Wagemans, but also worked with Klaas de Vries, Peter Eötvös, Pierre Boulez, and Luciano Berio. After living and traveling in the Far East for several years he settled in England in 2003, where he completed a Master’s Degree in musicology at King’s College London where he met with George Benjamin. East-Asian culture remains a predominant presence in Top’s life.

Top is currently the Head of the Composition Department at the Vancouver Academy of Music since 2014. He also maintains a close relationship with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, who commissioned seven, and performed ten of his works when he served as its Composer-in-Residence from 2011-2014. The VSO and conductor Bramwell Tovey played the commissioned work Totem in Seattle, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Phoenix on a US West Coast tour in 2013. The work Helix, Top’s latest commission for the VSO, was premiered during its centennial season’s opening in 2018, conducted by music director Otto Tausk.

In January 2017, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Peter Oundjian, premiered the commissioned work Eruption on tour in the Canadian cities of Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto.

WATCH: Standing Wave performs Pots n’ Pans Falling by Edward Top (2014).

Other commissions have included: Vancouver Island Symphony and bass trombonist Scott MacInnes, Schoenberg Ensemble, Holland Symfonia, Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal, Calefax reed quintet, Vocal LAB Silbersee, Doelen Ensemble, Raschèr Saxophone Quartet, The Tempest Flute Ensemble and Standing Wave. His works are performed by the Dutch Radio Kamerorkest, Netherlands Ballet Orchestra, Tokyo Sinfonietta, Ensemble NOISE at San Diego New Music and the Formalist String Quartet in Los Angeles. Edward is an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre.

His two string quartets and earlier orchestral works show influences of neo-expressionism, especially that of Wolfgang Rihm. Top analyzed melodic expansion in Rihm’s work and experimented with it in the extremity of the violin’s upper tessitura in his concerto for violin and two orchestras, Witte Wieven (2007). In Totem, for orchestra (2012), the lyric expressionism of Witte Wieven meets influences of the extreme metal genre and influences of György Kurtág, in what the Vancouver Sun has identified as “earthy neo-primitivism.”

WATCH: The Toronto Symphony alongside the TSO Youth Orchestra (feat. Peter Oundjian, conductor) performs Edward Top’s Eruption at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto (2017).

In addition to lasting relationships with orchestras in Canada and The Netherlands, Top has enjoyed long-standing collaborations with chamber ensembles too. His two string quartets were composed for the Rotterdam Doelen Quartet, who keep regularly programming the works. They premiered the second quartet in Paris in the presence of Henri Dutilleux, and recorded both works on CD. In Vancouver, ensemble Standing Wave performed four of his works, including an arrangement of Slayer’s thrash-metal classic Angel of Death, and Pots ‘n Pans Falling, which has been released on the CD New Wave in late 2016.

Submerged in the kaleidoscopic music scene in Vancouver on the Canadian West Coast since 2010, Top started experimenting with a more economic use of musical material, temporarily distancing himself from earlier influences of expressionism. In Pots ‘n Pans Falling, the members of the ensemble Standing Wave echo recordings of Top’s 7-year old violin student playing a simple motive. Pots ‘n Pans Falling was composed to commemorate the young survivors of the Sandy Hook shooting.