Born in Beijing in 1957, Julian Yu settled in Australia in 1985. He studied composition at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, later joining the teaching staff there, and from 1980 to 1982 studied at the Tokyo College of Music with Joji Yuasa and Schin–ichiro Ikebe. In 1988 he was a Composition Fellow at Tanglewood where he studied with Hans Werner Henze and Oliver Knussen.

Important commissions include Ensemble Modern, the 2000 BBC Proms, and the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. In 2011 he was Theme Composer at the Suntory Hall Summer Festival in Tokyo, where his specially commissioned work For Our Natural World was performed along with many other of his works in two dedicated concerts. His piano concerto, commissioned by the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, was performed there last October.

Awards for composition include the 1988 Koussevitzky Tanglewood Composition Prize; the inaugural and consecutive Paul Lowin Orchestral Prizes of 1991 and 1994; the 1992 Vienna Modern Masters Composition Award; awards in the International New Music Composers’ Competitions of 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1990; the 35th Premio Musicale Citta di Trieste, Italy 1988; the 56th Japan Music Concours 1987; the international Irino Prize Competition, Japan 1989; the International ‘Piano 2000’ Composition Competition, Japan; the Albert H. Maggs Composition Awards of1988 and 2015; the Jacobena Angliss Music Award 1989; the Adolf Spivakovsky Composition Prize 1993; the Margaret Lee Crofts Fellowship (USA) 1988; and an Australia Council Composer Fellowship in 1995.

His piano album The Young Person’s Guide to Composition: 126 Variations on ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ was published in Japan in 2010 and China in 2011 where it has already reached its second print run. In 2011 it was released on CD (Fontec label), which was awarded the 2011 Record Academy Award (Contemporary Division) in the famous Japanese classical CD magazine “Record Geijutsu”.

His work, mostly for orchestra, is frequently performed in Australia and internationally. A free-lance composer, he is an Honorary Fellow of the University of Melbourne.