Written for the 25th anniversary of the Fine Arts Brass Ensemble, Breathless was inspired by Maynard Ferguson and his almost superhuman energy. The piece is relentless and draws on sounds from the jazz big band genre, its acerbic homophony interspersed with intricate fast passagework. Part of the energy is a reflection of the performer’s anxiety about getting to the concert on time, as expressed in the quote from Alice in Wonderland, ‘Oh dear! I shall be too late!’ Sometimes, during the 1980s, the schedule of the Fine Arts Brass bordered on the insane, but this ‘business’ is an integral part of most musicians’ life and indeed something that is worn like a badge of success.
The premier was given at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts conducted by the composer.