Born Buckinghamshire, son of the late Watson Forbes. Sebastian studied in London and Cambridge and was a BBC producer before becoming a university lecturer, first at Bangor and since 1972 at Surrey, where he has been Professor of Music since 1981. His music first made its mark thorugh winning the McEwen Prize in 1962. Among Scottish commissions are his Piano Trio (McEwen Commission, 1964) and Symphony in Two Movements (Edinburgh Festival, 1972). His most recent works are String Quartet No.5 (2000) and Sonata for 15 (strings 220.127.116.11.1, 2001) both composed with the aid of an AHRB Award.
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 String Quartet No.1, a landmark in an exciting maturity (The Strad).
Significant commissions followed, including orchestral works for the BBC Proms and the Edinburgh International 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 – absolutely masterly (Organists’ Review). 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, Reflections for chamber organ, and String Quartets Nos. 4 and 5, all of which exemplify his characteristic subtle harmonic plotting (Revised New Grove, 2000).
Sebastian Forbes is Professor of Music at the University of Surrey, where he is also Director of Music. His teaching covers a wide range besides composition, and in addition he is active as a conductor and a record producer.