Entries by Adam Gorb

Programme Notes – A Celebration

Having heard many concerts with the Northern Chamber Orchestra I was thrilled to be asked to write a piece for them: this was the first time I’d written a piece for a large ensemble without a conductor, so that posed a new challenge! ‘A Celebration’ is a positive observation of life in general; five short […]

Programme Notes – Trunk

Trunk; a five minute piece for solo trombone was commissioned by the bass trombonist Jonathan Warburton in 2009. There are versions for bass and tenor trombone. The title is an amalgm of the words ‘Trombone’ and ‘Funk’ whichshould give a clue to the character of the piece.

Programme Notes – The Dying of the Light

The Dying of the Light (1992) for bassoon and piano takes its title from the Dylan Thomas poem ‘Do not go gentle into that good night.’ The mood of this ten minute piece is defiant in keeping with the line that is repeated like a mantra throughout the poem: ‘Rage, rage against the dying of […]

Programme Notes – Sisohpromatem

For the original programme note for Sisohpromatem (Metamorphosis in reverse) I wrote the opening line of the Kafka story ‘As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed into a mostrous vermin’ backwards. This work was written in 2012 for te Manchester based group Vulgar Display, whose instrumental line up of […]

Programme Notes – Dancing in the Ghetto

Dancing in the Ghetto was premiered by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group in 2008. At that time I felt that the piece needed to be expanded, and much of the material found its way into my opera Anya17 a few years later. This four minute sometimes folkloristic blast for large chamber ensemble attempts to conjure […]

Programme Notes – A Better Place

‘A Better Place’ was written in the shadow of the tragically premature death of a close colleague, Mark Ray, the Head of Keyboard at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Rather than write something dark and funereal, I felt it more appropriate to celebrate Mark’s life and that of another that was taken […]

Programme Notes – A Distant Mirror (1999-2000)

For Brass Band The title of this piece is borrowed from the American author Barbara Tuchmann’s extraordinary book about ‘The Calamitous 14th Century’. In it she describes as ‘on the one hand an age of chivalry and princely splendour, of Gothic cathedrals, of superbly illuminated chronicles…on the other hand it was an age of chaos […]

Programme Notes – Absinthe (2010)

In the second half of the nineteenth century the drink Absinthe became known as the queen of poisons, and was readily taken up by several of the world’s most important artists including Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Gaugin and Picasso. I particularly like the idea that the word Absinthe is derived from the Greek word Absinthion meaning […]

Programme Notes – Adrenaline City (2006)

Adrenaline City is a six-and-a-half-minute concert overture, inspired by both the stress and vibrancy of twenty-first century city life. It is in sonata form and is notable for a time signature in 10/8. The harsh and dissonant opening passage is contrasted by a mellow second subject theme in the saxophones. The percussion come to the […]

Programme Notes – Ascent (1996)

Commissioned by Liche Musik Tage Uster and first performed by the Uster Festival Wind Orchestra, conducted by Franz Schaffer, Staathofsaal Uster, Switzerland in 1996. For a Briton responding to a Swiss commission to draw on images of mountains for inspiration may seem a little obvious, but it was in my mind for a long time […]

Programme Notes – Awakening (2005-6)

The initial impulse to write Awakening came from a short poem by W.H. Auden: Lauds depicting a village community, which includes the refrain: In Solitude, for company. This piece explores the relationship between solitude and company, with groups of instruments reflecting the loneliness of the human condition, and the essential desire for companionship. Throughout the […]

Programme Notes – Awayday (1996 -rev. 1999)

In this six-minute curtain raiser my inspiration has come from the great days of the American Musical Comedy. I have tried to express in a brief sonata form movement the exhilaration of ‘getting away from it all’ for a few short hours on a festive Bank Holiday. Musically the piece is a homage to the […]

Programme Notes – Bittersweet (1999)

For piano, two violins and cello Bittersweet is one of the hardest challenges I’ve ever had. What I wanted was something musically sophisticated that has a certain amount of substance in a mere three minutes, but at the same time is appealing to an audience relatively unfamiliar with new music. I also wanted to make […]

Programme Notes – Bermuda Triangle (1994)

The Bermuda Triangle is a legendary area of ocean celebrated for mysterious happenings, nautical disappearances and other baffling phenomena. It is also the name of an equally legendary Caribbean waterside bar – a meeting place for sporting characters of many races, renowned for the warmth of its welcome, the potency of its beverages and the […]

Programme Notes – Bohemian Revelry

Bohemian Revelry is a tribute to the verve and vigour of the music of the people of the Czech republic, but it is also a celebration of the other meaning of the word, meaning the artistic and social freedom of people without ties or responsibilities, allowing for a party atmosphere whenever and wherever possible, as […]

Programme Notes – Burlesque (2004)

Burlesque for Clarinet Choir was commissioned by the British Clarinet Association. I was originally a not very good clarinettist, and my first attempt at an opus 1 was a suite for two clarinets written when I was thirteen in 1971. I thought it might be fun to revisit this very immature work, so the strident […]

Programme Notes – Clarinet Concerto (1999)

In several of my works I have turned to my Jewish roots as a source of inspiration. At the very end of the twentieth century I wanted to bring together elements of this musical ancestry to write a large-scale work. The chance to write a piece for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra gave me a […]

Programme Notes – Dances From Crete (2003)

This work was commissioned by Timothy Reynish as part of a series of commissions to commemorate his son William Reynish who tragically died in a mountaineering accident in 2001. The world premiere took place at the Royal College of Music in London in November 2003. Dances From Crete is in four movements and is intended […]

Programme Notes – Diaspora (2002-2003) for eleven strings

A Diaspora is a dispersion or spreading of a people belonging to one nation or having a common culture. Most commonly now it refers to the scattering of the Jews originally from Palestine . Over the centuries the Jewish people have made their homes in all parts of the world; one of the most culturally […]

Programme Notes – Downtown Diversions (2000-2001)

A trombone concerto The character of this work is that of a serenade or divertimento but with Jazz and Latin influences. I have attempted to explore the mercurial aspects of the solo trombone, avoiding more commonplace characteristics of the instrument (there is not a single glissando for the soloist.) The piece is in three movements: […]

Programme Notes – Elements (1997-1998)

Suite for Percussion and Wind Ensemble EARTH – Allegro Moderato WATER – Andante FIRE – Prestissimo AIR – Largo – Presto The origins of the four elements: Earth, Water, Fire and Air ate back to the Greek philosopher, physician, poet and high priest Empedocles (c. 490 – 430 BC) who allegedly committed suicide by throwing […]

Programme Notes – Eternal Voices

Words by Ben Kaye Music by Adam Gorb For Mezzo Soprano Solo, Boy Treble, Chorus and Wind Ensemble When asked to write a large-scale choral work involving the Royal Marines on the subject of the present conflict in Afghanistan I sensed that to take any particular stance would be inappropriate. So I hope that in […]

Programme Notes – Farewell

Farewell is a large-scale symphonic Adagio lasting about twenty minutes. In this piece I’ve decided to split the Wind Ensemble into two separate ‘orchestras.’ The first ensemble consists of clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, trombones, tubas and harsh sounding percussion; and the music is predominantly desperate and anguished. The instruments in the second ‘orchestra’ are flutes, oboes, […]

Programme Notes – Fasolt’s Revenge

8 Minutes Scoring: Two Tuba quartets: (4 Tenor Tubas, 4 Bass Tubas) 2 Percussionists: 2 Bass Drums, tubular bells Fasolt and Fafner are the two giant brothers that appear together in ‘Das Rhinegold’; the first of the series of music dramas that make up Wagner’s massive series of music dramas that make up ‘Der Ring […]

Programme Notes – Freedom (2004) for oboe and harp

There is a big price to be paid for freedom. Today there is limitless freedom of choice for consumers: at the click of a computer mouse one can arrange to fly anywhere in the world, eat or drink anything one likes, buy whatever products one wants; if you can’t afford it that’s OK, you can […]

Programme Notes – French Dances Revisited (2003-2004)

(Wind Ensemble) French Dances Revisited was conceived during an exercise I set some of my students, which was to write a variation on the Bach keyboard prelude in C BVW 939 for double wind quintet. Subsequently I thought it a good idea to take this same prelude and use it as a basis for a […]

Programme Notes – Into the Light

For Eight Cellos The cello encompasses perhaps the widest emotional, timbral, dynamic and expressive range of any instrument. To be afforded the luxury of writing for eight of them was an offer I couldn’t refuse, and in this work I have attempted to enter this vast and varied sound world with a nine minute work […]

Programme Notes – Klezmer (1993)

For unaccompanied violin The term ‘Klezmer’ comes from the Hebrew ‘Kley Zemer’ referring to the instruments played by the Jews of Eastern Europe. Nowadays the musician, his instrument and the music he plays are covered by the one term ‘Klezmer.’ The origins of this music date back to the sixteenth century and are of Eastern […]

Programme Notes – Magnification x

This short setting of a poem by the Tasmanian poet Sarah Day was written as a 70th birthday tribute to the composer Anthony Gilbert for his 70th birthday in 2004. The quirky instrumentation of soprano solo, sopranino recorder, cello and harpsichord is the most bizarre I have ever attempted, and I hope helps towards conveying […]

Programme Notes – Metropolis (1992)

I have long wanted to write a work reflecting the hectic pace of modern-day living. The invitation to compose a piece for the very urban combination of woodwind, saxophones, brass, piano and extensive percussion gave me this opportunity. The initial idea for Metropolis came from a radio play which was set in the near future […]

Programme Notes – Michael and All Angels (1995)

Michael and All Angels in mini-cantata for narrator, horn, chamber choir and organ with a text take from the Book of Revelations from the New Testament in the Bible. The first line: ‘There Was War in Heaven’ is reflected by chaotic wordless choral melismas and grindingly dissonant organ chords. The horn makes its baleful presence […]

Programme Notes – Midnight in Buenos Aires

I have been excited and enchanted by the music of Latin America since I was a child, and I have a particular love for the Tango; a dance that has its roots in Argentina. In this work I have tried to capture the combination of darkness, violence, mystery and seductive passion that is all an […]

Programme Notes – Prelude, Interlude and Postlude (1992)

Prelude, Interlude and Postlude was written in 1992, and won the Purcell Composition Prize in 1995. The three pieces are in a free atonal idiom, but with some leanings towards modality, particularly in the Postlude. In all three movements I have attempted to explore the percussive possibilities of the instrument without, I hope, resorting to […]

Programme Notes – Repercussions (2011)

There are three definitions of the noun ‘Repercussion’ – 1) An unintended consequence occurring sometime after an event or action, especially an unwelcome one; 2) The recoil of something after impact; 3) An echo or reverberation. These definitions all have a relevance to this fifteen minute piece which is in four sections that should be […]

Programme Notes – Scenes from Bruegel (1994)

Children’s Games – Vivace Leggiero Two Monkeys – Lento The Peasant Dance – Presto con Fuoco The Wedding Banquet – Moderato Pesante – Allegro Molto In this suite of four short movements, I have been drawn to the wonderfully detailed and multi-layered depictions of village life by the sixteenth century Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel. There […]

Programme Notes – Serenade for Spring

Commissioned by the Hampstead and Highgate Festival Ltd with Funding from the John S Cohen Foundation Dedicated to my Parents Duration 14 Minutes Moderate speed – a sort of sleigh ride through melting snow A miniature flute concertino – idyllic until just before the close A dazzlingly bright May morning, leading by way of a […]

Programme Notes – Silk Impressions (2005) (Premiere)

Having moved to Cheshire from London some years ago I thought it would be an enjoyable challenge to try and write a work inspired by events from local history and folklore. Some of the ideas behind this piece are local legends; for others I am indebted to a book by Doug Pickford: Macclesfield Mysterious and […]

Programme Notes – Sonata for Violin and Piano (1996)

Adagio-Presto-Adagio While this work is not a sonata in the conventional sense, my inspiration for writing it was based on elements of sonata form that I consider eternally fresh in so much of my favourite music. This includes development and metamorphosis of thematic material, establishment of tonal centres and the relationship between them, contrast between […]

Programme Notes – Straitjacket (2002) for tuba and piano

In this ten-minute piece I have attempted to illustrate a Kafkaesque sense of claustrophobia and paranoia. The mood is predominantly dark, often violent, and at times grotesque. The tuba and piano should play as if locked together in a deadly embrace – indeed the piano part is limited to one note at a time in […]

Programme Notes – String Quartet No. 1 (2002)

Writing this work was one of my greatest challenges as a composer. In the first place, I was given the opportunity to write a chamber piece with my own decision in instrumentation, as opposed to being prescribed a particular instrument or group of players – greater freedom of choice can prove problematic as opposed to […]

Programme Notes – String Quartet No. 2 (2009)

My first string quartet written in 2001 is an intense half hour affair that attempts to plunge the depths of human emotion. This piece written in 2009 tries to do nothing of the sort. It is in four short movements, is serenade like in character, and lasts approximately eleven minutes. It was written for the […]

Programme Notes – Sunrise and Safari (2006)

This work consists of two movements which can be played together or separately. Both movements last around three and a half minutes. The first movement Singapore Sunrise is intended for school bands, and is based on the Singaporean melody Ikan Kekek. It is characterised by a mysterious opening with early morning birdcalls on the woodwinds […]

Programme Notes – Symphony No. 1 in C (2000)

Allegro molto Andante cantabile (con moto) Allegro molto e vivace Allegro molto e vivace For most composers the prospect of writing their first symphony is a daunting one. The thought of conceiving a large-scale work following the example of one of the great traditions in western music offers a challenge that many put off indefinitely, […]

Programme Notes – Thoughts Scribbled on a Blank Wall (2006-7)

The conflict between imposing limitations upon myself as a composer and the freedom to break those limitations has often showed me the way during the process of writing. In this work for bass-baritone solo, brass quintet, chorus and organ, I have been lucky enough to be guided by a text that explores these limitations, in […]

Programme Notes – Towards Nirvana (2002)

I am constantly drawn towards the idea of conflict in my works. The invitation to write a substantial piece for the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra gave me the opportunity to explore the conflict between the stress of living in today’s frenetic world and the search for something far more transcendental. During the writing of this […]

Programme Notes – Tranquility (2009)

This short work is dedicated to Timothy Reynish and is a study in restraint, with the dynamic rarely above piano. This seven minute work projects a sense of loss but never descends into despair. At one point the members of the ensemble hum a canon based on the opening theme. The work ends with a […]

Programme Notes – WAR OF THE WORLDS (2010)

The inspiration for WAR OF THE WORLDS came from the celebrated novel about a possible Martian invasion by the former Bromley resident, author H.G. Wells. It is a large-scale 20-minute work in five clearly defined sections. A slow, brooding opening with an atmosphere of suppressed menace culminates with a thematically significant solo bass trombone acting […]

Programme Notes – Wedding Breakfast (1993)

A tribute to Igor Stravinsky Wedding Breakfast involves one performer who sings, plays the tambourine and does a few other things. The piece is inspired by, and takes its material from Stravinsky’s masterpiece ‘Les Noces’ (the wedding), at the end of which the bride goes up to her nuptial bedchamber to meet with and do […]

Programme Notes – Weimar (2000)

The Weimar Republic covered the brief and chaotic years in Germany’s history from the end of the First World War to the rise of Hitler in 1933. These years were characterised politically and socially by extreme instability and turbulence, and artistically by a unique boldness and a new awareness of the political climate. For many, […]

Programme Notes – Yiddish Dances (1997 rev. 2003-4)

Yiddish Dances, written for Timothy Reynish’s 60th birthday in 1998, is very much a party piece. It brings together two of my abiding passions: the Symphonic Wind Orchestra and Klezmer – the folk music of the Yiddish-speaking people. The five movements are all based on set Klezmer dances: Khosidl – a medium tempo 2/4 in […]