Born in Berkshire, Michael Butten studied at Junior Academy, where he twice won the Lower Strings Prize, before being awarded a scholarship at the Academy to continue his studies with Michael Lewin. In his first year he won the Julian Bream Prize, adjudicated by Julian Bream, and, when leaving the Academy he was awarded the David Russell prize. On completing his BMus degree with first class honours, he received from the Academy one of the Regency Awards for Notable Achievement and in June 2014, as a postgraduate with a scholarship from Help Musicians UK, he became the first guitarist ever to win the RAM Club Prize.
Recent successes include the 2021 New Elizabethan Award, Second Prize at the 2019 GFA International Concert Artist Competition, First pPize at Pleven Guitar Competition 2018, the Bach prizes at the 2018 and 2019 Hubert Kappel International Guitar Competition at Koblenz, as well as his Radio 3 debut of a recital recorded at the 2018 St Magnus International Festival in Orkney. He was also the First Prize winner at the 2016 Ivor Mairants Guitar Award, and is a Yeoman of the Worshipful Company of Musicians.
Notable among his solo engagements have been concerto performances at the Malcolm Arnold Festival in Northampton; Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez with Hertfordshire Chamber Orchestra (conducted by Edmon Colomer) and the Windsor and Maidenhead Symphony Orchestra; concerts with the Berkeley Ensemble at the Malcolm Arnold Festival, The Forge and in the City of London to celebrate the music of Malcolm Arnold; and recitals and festivals in Europe and the USA. He also recorded the Malcolm Arnold Serenade with the Chamber Ensemble of London for their CD ‘A British Serenade’. After performing at Kings Place for the London International Guitar Festival, he was selected to tour the UK on the IGF’s Young Artist Platform.
Having been, for several of his formative years, leader of the National Youth Guitar Ensemble, Michael has remained highly active in chamber music, regularly collaborating with other guitarists, singers, wind players and string quartets; his musical interests have extended from performing with the Manson Ensemble in Maxwell Davies’s The Lighthouse to learning the theorbo for a Royal Academy Opera production of Il Giasone by Cavalli under the direction of Jane Glover. With the tenor Oliver Johnston he has appeared in masterclasses with the late Robert Tear and in 2014 was invited to present, with the tenor Julian Gregory, a programme for the Lennox Berkeley Society; this was soon followed by his participation at the Academy in a special concert of all Berkeley’s music involving the guitar, which drew warm critical acclaim in the Daily Telegraph. He has also performed with Glyndebourne Touring Opera, at the Saint Endellion Music Festival with tenor Mark Padmore, and as part of Tetra Guitar Quartet at the Iserlohn Guitar Festival in their last-ever concert.
Of particular interest to Michael is the music of modern British composers, British renaissance lute repertoire and the link often found between the music of both eras. As a result of this interest, Michael has premiered works by prominent British composers such as Errolyn Wallen, and pieces dedicated to him by Timothy Bowers and Bulgarian performer composer Atanas Ourkouzonov.