Born in Cardiff in 1958, Adam Gorb started composing at the age of ten. His first work broadcast on national radio was written when he was fifteen. He studied at Cambridge University (1977-1980) and the Royal Academy of Music (1991-1993) where he graduated with the highest honours including the Principal's Prize. He has been on the staff at the London College of Music and Media, the junior Academy of the Royal Academy of Music and, since 2000 he has been the Head of School of Composition at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.
International recognition came in 1994 with the US Walter Beeler Prize for his work Metropolis. With it began what has developed into probably the most important wind ensemble catalogue by a contemporary composer, ranging from extremely challenging to the most accessible, at all technical levels, seized on by players internationally, widely recorded and now absolutely central to the world's wind repertoire. Equally important though are his works for dance, and concert pieces like the chamber orchestral Weimar , the Violin Sonata , a Clarinet Concerto for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Diaspora for strings (for the Goldberg Ensemble). Deceptively mainstream at first glance; they display the same inventive brilliance, pulsating sound world, striking use of rhythm and an undogmatic absence of stylistic hang-ups to embrace jazz and serialism in works where power, poetry, irony and pathos, often underlaid by a theatrical and deeply subversive element, coalesce in an integrated, highly individual musical voice. Gorb is also not afraid to draw on the vivid musical heritage of his Jewish roots, sometimes directly, often in a more subsumed or radically creative way. The crucial and consistent feature of Gorb's work though is that it communicates strongly without patronising players or audiences. He firmly believes that if contemporary music - any music - does not impact on listeners then its message is irrelevant; it is lost.
Giles Easterbrook 2004
Adam Gorb's steady stream of works for wind ensemble and wind band run the gamut from the sheer virtuoso high spirits of his brilliant "post-Bernstein" Overture, Awayday, (1996, Maecenas) to the cool restrained colours and the gentler sound-world of Ascent, commissioned by Felix Hauswirth for the Uster Festival, and Towards Nirvana, which begins as a hedonistic whirl, reminiscent of the language of Metropolis, but ends in a Buddhist trance of chanting, recorders, repetitive motifs, dying away to nothing. "Too long and too quiet" was the criticism levelled by one eminent wind orchestra aficionado! Despite that, it won the award from the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters for the best wind work of 2004.
His Yiddish Dances (1998 Maecenas) is a contemporary classic, with hundreds of performances world-wide, a marvelous five-movement work based on the Klezmer tradition. More substantial work is a concerto for percussion, written for Evelyn Glennie, Elements (1998, Maecenas), premiered at the Bridgewater Hall Manchester, while Farewell (2008 Maecenas) is a tragic one-movement adagio of Mahlerian intensity and proportions.
Gorb has often nailed his colours to the mast over "light" music, and in a WASBE lecture he stated: I am of the belief that I cannot ignore over the last hundred years what has happened in popular music, and I think for the wind band or ensemble, there are obvious elements in some pieces that I write of the big band, the jazz ensemble, even to a slight extent the rock band. I like to have piano, bass and drumkit and have used this in three or four of my pieces. Popular music elements are sometimes there, sometimes they are not there, but again they offer an opportunity for contrast
The hilarious trombone concerto, Downtown Diversions (2001, Maecenas) demonstrates the ease with which he skates near the thin edge of popular clich? without ever falling into that easiest of ruts. In recent works he returns to the populist mode of Yiddish Dances; Dances from Crete, (2003, Maecenas) is a four movement rumbustious suite of dances in which the spirit of Cretan dance is captured with effortless ease despite the pervading presence of the ghost of the Minotaur.
He is now Head of School of Composition at the Royal Northern College of Music , but wears his learning lightly as demonstrated by a number of charming pieces at Grade 2/3 level. Candlelight Procession (G&M Brand) is a moving introduction to 5/4 metre, Eine kleine Yiddische Ragmusik is another hilarious essay in Klezmer, while he explores teasing aleatoric textures in his most recent school wind band work, Sunrise and Safari, written for the 2007 Singapore Festival Contest. Also commissioned for school bands but more taxing are Bermuda Triangle (1995, Maecenas), and an Euphonium Concerto (1997, Maecenas).
He is an essentially practical composer, and his works for school band have a spontaneity and sensitivity rare at this level. I especially enjoy Bridgewater Breeze (Maecenas), five good tunes with teasing turns of phrasing, orchestration and metre, and again the witty melodic quirks of Parade of the Wooden Warriors (G&M Brand), both at about Grade 3 level.
He is serious about writing for less experienced students, passionate even. In a lecture he said: The final work I want to talk about is a recent five minute piece called Candlelight Procession; this is a work which has been actually aimed for schools and junior wind ensembles; I am very very passionate about writing music for people who are starting out or who have reached a certain level. Of course some of my music, Metropolis, Ascent, would normally only be played by college bands and professional ensembles, but I think one of the greatest thrills is when people I don't know say "Oh yes, we played your piece in a summer course last year", and I think it's a great challenge to try and write pieces that while in no way are sort of writing down, being patronising toward children, younger players, and indeed older amateur players as well. I like to think that even a piece like this could be played by a professional ensemble.
This is a passacaglia with a little motif that runs through the whole piece. I had a vision of the whole band playing that together, each group of instruments trying it out, I thought of the sense of perspective, the bassoons are very much closer to you than, say, the trumpet, the muted horn is even further away so there a sense of it being passed around. This is quite a simple piece but I'd like to think it is as much of a personal statement as Metropolis.
In 2006 he was commissioned by a consortium of American military bands to write a short virtuoso work. Adrenaline City is a seven-and-a-half-minute concert overture, inspired by both the stress and vibrancy of twenty-first century city life. 2007 saw the premiere of the Tango inspired Midnight in Buenos Aires by Harmonie St Caecilia Blerick in Holland, and more recently in April 2008 Farewell, a tragic and impassioned large scale Adagio was given its first performance by the National Youth Wind Ensemble of Wales conducted by Timothy Reynish. 2009 saw both a new work for school band, Tranquility, commissioned by Tim Reynish and premiered at WASBE, and the first performance of Eine Kleine Walzermusik by the MTU Blaserensemble in Germany. A large scale commission by the US organisation Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma, Repercussions, emerged in 2011.
|Suite for Wind||1993||10.00||Maecenas|
|Over Hill, Over Dale||1994||4.00||Maecenas|
|Sunrise and Safari||2007||9.00||Maecenas|
|Parade of the Wooden Warriors||1998||3.00||G&M Brand|
|Candlelight Procession||2001||5.00||G&M Brand|
|Scenes from an English Landscape||2002||3.00||G&M Brand|
|Eine Kleine Yiddische Ragmusik||2003||5.00||G&M Brand|
|Three Way Suite||2004||4.30||G&M Brand|
|History of England in 3 Chapters||2004||5.00||Maecenas|
|African Samba||2005||3.00||G&M Brand|
|A Little Tango Music||2007||3.30||G&M Brand|
|A Little Salsa Music||2008||4.00||G&M Brand|
|Scenes from Bruegel||1994||16.00||Maecenas|
|Symphony no. 1 in C||2000||16.00||Maecenas|
|Dances from Crete||2003||19.00||Maecenas|
|French Dances Revisited||2004||15.00||G&M Brand|
|Midnight in Buenos Aires||2007||11.00||Studio|
|War Of The Worlds||2009||20.00||Maecenas|
|Concertino for Alto Saxophone||2010||13.30||Maecenas|
|Rondo Burlesque from Mahler Symphony no. 9||2011||12.00||Maecenas|