for medium-size symphony orchestra

Anthony Gilbert

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for medium-size symphony orchestra

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Composer Anthony Gilbert
Year of Composition 2021
Duration ca.11'

Instrumentation Orchestra
Forces Fl, Fl/Picc/AFl, 2Ob, 2Cl, Bsn, Strings (
Categories (all composers)
Catalogue ID ce-ag3l2


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During 2020, the ‘year of fear’ of COVID-19, I found myself sketching out two medium-length ‘tone-poems’ for orchestra, aimed in their different ways at celebrating being alive. I approached them with a great sense of freedom, allowing my intuition simply to be guided subconsciously by my amassed technical knowledge. So this piece, despite using ‘serial’ linear techniques, is clearly tonal – part of a journey my musical language has been making for some years now, to bring together several of what would in the 1970s have been regarded as ‘conflicting’ attitudes towards the composition of serious music. This is one reason for the title.

The main motive for writing the piece was as a largely gentle reflection on my half-century of association with Manchester, much of which being in close association with the Royal Northern College of Music, as Tutor and finally, Head of Composition and Contemporary Music. I found that I loved teaching, and despite my understandable lack of confidence, the students and I bonded well – ‘liaisons’ again, i.e. good friendships. So Liaison is textured rather like a concerto for orchestra, but without conflict, only ‘discussion’ and ‘reflection’ on ideas put forward, in a play-like overall structure.

It begins with a brief extract from the tail-end of my Symphony of 1968-72, the last major work before coming to Manchester. These few bars are labelled ‘Transition’, and move smoothly into a succession of five quite substantial ‘Scenes’, of decreasing lengths as they approach the main climax of the little drama, and expanding thereafter through tranquillity to a long-drawn-out coda quietly echoing the Symphony’s ending and confirming security with its conclusive consonance. So Scene 1 lays out all the motivic material; Scene 2 starts as a dance, but with a hint of tensions; Scene 3 is a gentle ‘conflict in canon’, bringing about the main climax; Scene 4, a sort of ‘reconciliation’, pulls together the fragments of the preceding canon, liaison-fashion, and Scene 5 is retrospective.

Liaison, lasting a little over eleven minutes, is dedicated to my long-standing friend and colleague, the distinguished conductor Timothy Reynish MBE, in deep gratitude for all the support and championing of my work he has shown over these fifty years.