Adam Gorb

Adam Gorb

By Tim Reynish

Revised March 2012

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 BritishAcademy 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 cliché 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.

Work Date Duration Publisher
Metropolis 1992 15.00 Maecenas
Scenes from Bruegel 1994 16.00 Maecenas
Bermuda Triangle 1994 6.00 Maecenas
Ascent 1996 12.00 Maecenas
Awayday 1996 6.00 Maecenas
Euphonium Concerto 1997 15.00 Maecenas
Yiddish Dances 1998 16.00 Maecenas
Elements 1998 28.00 Maecenas
Symphony no. 1 in C 2000 16.00 Maecenas
Downtown Diversions 2001 18.00 Maecenas
Towards Nirvana 2002 20.00 Maecenas
Dances from Crete 2003 19.00 Maecenas
French Dances Revisited 2004 15.00 G&M Brand
Adrenaline City 2006 7.30 Studio
Midnight in Buenos Aires 2007 11.00 Studio
Farewell 2008 19.30 Maecenas
War Of The Worlds 2009 20.00 Maecenas
Concertino for Alto Saxophone 2010 13.30 Maecenas
Eternal Voices 2010 35.00 Maecenas
Repercussions 2010 14.30 Maecenas
Rondo Burlesque from Mahler Symphony no. 9 2011 12.00 Maecenas


Suite for Wind 1993 10.00 Maecenas
Over Hill, Over Dale 1994 4.00 Maecenas
Bridgewater Breeze 1996 10.00 Maecenas
Battle Symphony 1997 10.00 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


All works are for Wind Orchestra or Ensemble except where specified

Metropolis (1992)

First Performance:
Royal Academy of Music
Royal Academy of Music Wind Ensemble conductor Edward Gregson
8th March 1993

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 and where the entire population of the country lived in their vehicles, driving forever round a circular motorway day and night, stopping only for food and petrol. In this piece I have tried to capture a mood of extreme tension together with the desperate exhilaration that the play conveyed to me.

The work is in one movement falling into four sections and lasting about fourteen minutes. The first section is by far the longest and is fast and agitated with much of the material deriving from the nervous opening figure on low clarinets. After a cacophonous climax the 'human' voice of the solo alto saxophone tries to introduce a mood of greater tranquility before music from the opening section returns, this time in a brash and vulgar style. The final section follows a doom-laden climax and features a soft chorale for all the winds over percussion playing in cross-rhythms. The work ends starkly and simply.

Metropolis is dedicated to Paul Patterson and was first performed by the Royal Academy of Music Wind Ensemble, conducted by Edward Gregson in 1993. It subsequently won the Walter Beeler Memorial Prize in the USA .

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Scenes From Bruegel 1993-4

Commissioned by the National Youth Wind Orchestra.
1(picc),1,E flat Cl, 2 (Bcl.) 2, 2 tpt, 3 tbn, 2 perc.
16 mins. (pub. Maecenas)

First Performance:

Pittville Pump Room, Cheltenham
National Youth Wind Orchestra conductor David Campbell
5th April 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 is a strong element of satire in his paintings; what comes across most strongly is Bruegel's pinpointing of human folly and hypocrisy. Man's lust, cruelty and greed is repeatedly shown, sometimes in a wild, garish light, at other times beneath the surface.

His painting Children's Games at a cursory glance may seem full of life and gaiety, on closer inspection the hundreds of children depicted seem to be manipulated by an invisible hand, there are no expressions of joy here, and the games being acted out have very little of the spontaneous. In this first piece I have tried to capture the mood of the painting in three and a half minutes of robotic six/eight time from a deceptively innocent beginning to a brutal conclusion. At one point in the movement a very well known medieval song is quoted.

The painting Two Monkeys is in marked contrast to the other three. Here the crowd is not crowded with frenetic activity. Two gloomy-looking monkeys, portrayed in the movement by two bassoons playing in their highest registers are chained to a windowsill under a deep dungeon-like arch. They have been chained down for their greed for a hazelnut. Behind them is Antwerpcovered in a thick mist.

The third movement The Peasant Dance is wild, uncouth and very brief - and includes another quotation, this time from a bi-tonal sixteenth century dance by the German composer Hans Neusidler.

In The Wedding Banquet Bruegel's characters are completely ruled by their lust for instant gratification - something that hasn't changed very much in the last five hundred years. Any sense of the spirituality of the occasion is swept aside by the constant demand for food and drink. The music is intentionally two dimensional, never leaving the tonal area of B flat.

Scenes From Bruegel was commissioned by the National Youth Wind Orchestra of Great Britain with financial assistance from the John Lewis Partnership.

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Bermuda Triangle (1994)

Commissioned by the Northampton Schools Wind Ensemble.
6 mins. (pub. Maecenas)

First Performance:
Northampton Schools Wind Ensemble conductor Martin Sutton
28th October 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 legendaryCaribbean 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 high-spirits of some of the goings-on there. Taken seperately, the words conjure up pictures of their own which the composer reflects in his work - a piece of serious confectionary not without its sinister side: the Bermudans with their informal, fun-loving approach to life, and Triangles, darkly suggestive of mathematics, percussion instruments, compound time and marital infidelity. If you can imagine the great Pythagoras on a holiday cruise (aboard the SS Hypotenuse ) stopping off to let his hair down with a highly mixed bunch of sporting locals at an impromptu musical barbecue, and never being seen again, then you will bet the picture.

Programme Note by Giles Easterbrook

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Ascent (1996 rev. 2004)

Commissioned by Liche Musik Tage Uster and first performed by the Uster Festival Wind Orchestra, conducted by Franz Schaffer, Staathfsaal, Uster, Switzerland in September 1996.

First Performance:
Uster Festival , Switzerland
28th September 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 to make a musical response to Cezanne's series of paintings of Mont St. Victoire in southern France near Aix-En-Provence . I feel that the cool detachment of Cezanne's vision, the quiet grandeur, could be expressed well through the sounds of a wind ensemble.

Ascent is mainly calm and impersonal. It begins with off-stage trumpets, and gradually various groups of instruments enter with their own musical ideas. Melodies repeat and overlap in layers without development. After a desolate middle section, with passages for solo instruments, a soft brass chorale marks the final part, where the whole ensemble is heard together for the first time. The ending attempts a musical impression of reaching out, from a great height, towards order, clarity, tonality.

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Commissioned by the Royal Northern College of Music

First Performance:
Bridgewater Hall, Manchester conductor Timothy Reynish
17th November 1996

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 great days of the Broadway musical with its irresistable brashness and irrepressible high spirits. If you can envisage George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, Igor Stravinsky and James Bond travelling together at a hundred miles per hour in an open-top sports car, I think you'll get the idea.

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Euphonium Concerto (1996-7)

Commissioned by Richmond School, N. Yorkshire, UK

First Performance:
Richmond School Wind Ensemble conductor Richard Jones

Soloist Ian Whitwham
Richmond School , N. Yorkshire
10th May 1997

The Euphonium Concerto was written in 1996-7, and is about fifteen minutes long in two contrasting movements. In the first, and longer movement, I have attempted to exploit the more lyrical side of the solo instrument. After a bell-like introduction played softly on woodwinds, answered by recitative-like gestures in the euphonium and followed by a gentle build up from the whole band, the main body of the movement sets off in a flowing 5/8 time with a saxophone melody answered by the soloist. A more lively scherzando section follows, always increasing in animation, and eventually dissolving into cascading semiquavers for the soloist. A more sombre section follows, and a climax is reached with the full band landing in the home key of A minor. Earlier material is recalled and the movement ends with with a return to the very opening and a soft shimmer of bell sounds.

These sounds should reverberate into the next movement, an Allegro Vivace led by the soloist with a melody based on the theme from the opening of the work. The full band soon interrupts reaching a martial climax before a more graceful melody attempts to exert itself. After a moment of reflection the main theme of the movement is developed contrapuntally eventually reaching the work's main climax with a return to the bell-like melody of the opening, this time with full forces, fortissimo. Following a brief reminiscence of the opening of the movement the coda lurches into a completely different world, totally unlike anything that has happened before.

The Euphonium Concerto was first performed in May 1997 with soloist Ian Whitwham and the Richmond School Wind Ensemble in North Yorkshire conducted by Richard Jones.

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Yiddish Dances (1997)

Commissioned by Timothy Reynish

First Performance:
Royal Northern College of Music Wind Ensemble conductor Timothy Reynish
Royal Northern College of Music, 9th March 1998

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 which the music moves between satire, sentimentality and pathos.

Terkishe - an up-tempo Jewish tango.

Doina - a free recitative in which various instruments in the band get a chance to show off.

Hora - slow 3/8 time with a characteristic rocking rhythm.

Freylachs - very fast 2/4 time in which themes from the previous movements are recalled, ending in a riotous 'booze-up' for all concerned.

Le Chaim! (To Life!)

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Elements (1997-1998)

For Percussion Solo and Wind Ensemble
Commissioned by the Royal Northern College of Music

First Performance:
Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
Soloist Evelyn Glennie
RNCM Wind Ensemble conductor Clark Rundell
6th April 1998

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 himself into the crater of Mount Etna . Empedocles analysed the universe into the four elements, fire being the essence of life, the other elements forming the basis of matter. His system is founded on the theory together with another, which supposes two opposing forces, Love and Strife. The world began when the elements, which had been torn asunder by the forces of Strife, tended to come together again under the influence of Love. The different species arose out of the different mingling of the elements.

In this work I have drawn upon motifs from that great elemental epic: Wagner's 'Der Ring Des Nibelungen.' While there is little direct quotation I have been inspired by the extraordinarily forward-looking harmony and the magical sense of atmosphere found in Wagner's great masterpiece. The first movement: Earth begins with ominous rumblings for the soloist, which soon erupt into a mood of intense fury. The harmonic language is harsh in the extreme, the rhythms are angular, and the texture is dominated by drums of various timbres, with an occasional grotesque interjection from the xylophone. At the climax of the movement any sense of order is lost and the players in the band play independently of the conductor, over whom the soloist improvises on octobans, (a particularly cruel and piercing-sounding set of drums.) Things eventually calm down, and the second movement:Water begins with an extended saxophone duet over murky chromatic semiquavers for wind and brass. Through this movement I have attempted to guide the emotional direction from Strife towards Love. The dominant instrument here is the marimba, which plays rhapsodically around fluid woodwind solos, like a deep-sea diver travelling amongst various strange tropical fish. Twice in the course of the movement a brass chorale (with melodic contours from Wagner's Rhine maidens) cuts through the texture, leading in its second appearance to the tonal centre of A major before the saxophones are heard once again.

With the sound of a match being struck Fire steals in, at first with a flicker, but soon gathering momentum and becoming wild and uncontrolled. The soloist switches from marimba to various metal percussion instruments, including thunder sheet and junk metal. At the climax of the movement a joyful bell-like theme is heard in the horns before the fire quickly burns itself out. The final movement Air expands this bell-like melody in music that is very slow, very quiet and very simple with silence an important factor. The dominant sound now is the cool, calm timbre of the vibraphone, and a great peace descends upon the scene. There is a final statement of the bell-like theme in the full band before the piece evaporates in a quicksilver A major codetta.

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Symphony No. 1 in C (2000)

Commissioned by Tom Hill for a private party
2(picc 2) 2, 2, 2, 4, DB

First Performance:
First public performance Royal Northern College of Music
RNCM Wind Ensemble conductor Clark Rundell~
28th June 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, and others never attempt. I have ignored this colossal weight of expectancy and written a party piece, which, I think is appropriate as it was written for a fortieth birthday party. The mood is light and effervescent, appropriate for an accompaniment to champagne and strawberries on a summer evening. The structural and thematic model of the piece is that of a very famous Symphony no. 1 in C by a certain L. Van Beethoven. Towards the end of the fourth and final movement of this fifteen-minute work there are quotations from other famous symphonies in C. Your answers, on a postcard please, to....

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Downtown Diversions (2000-2001)

Trombone Concerto

Commissioned by a Consortium of university bands in the USA
First Performance:
CBDNA Conference, University of North Texas , USA , 24th February 2001
Soloist Don Lucas
Texas Tech Symphonic Wind Ensemble conductor John Cody Birdwell

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: fast - slow - fast that alternate dance-like and more lyrical passages. The first movement is swift and light footed and contains the two main themes that form the basis for the whole work, the first at the start by the lone soloist, and a more singing second subject that becomes the main theme for the laid-back second movement. Here the band consists of saxophones, brass and rhythm section only. The woodwind and horns return for the finale, which is a variation of the first movement in 10/8 time. The writing for the soloist becomes more virtuosic as the movement progresses and leads to an abrupt conclusion.

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Towards Nirvana (2002)

Commissioned by the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra

First Performance:
Tokyo Metropolitan Arts Space, Tokyo , Japan
Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra conductor Douglas Bostock
18th October 2002

Winner of British Composer Award, Wind and Brass Category, 2004

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 work I became drawn to the story of the Buddha: Siddhartha Gautama whose life and teachings over two thousand years ago paved the way to one of the world's great religions.

The Buddha's early life was spent in comfort and naive self-indulgence and his father made sure that he would not experience any of the harsh realities of the world at first hand. After a while the Buddha did encounter old age, sickness and death on three forbidden visits from his father's palace. On his fourth visit he came across a religious ascetic dressed in rags who seemed content despite his suffering; from this moment on Siddartha decided to devote the rest of his life to seeking the truth of human existence.

At the age of twenty-nine the Buddha left his life of luxury to become a wanderer himself. He spent six years in complete self-denial fasting and meditating, before, emaciated and starving, he realised that he was no closer to finding the answers he sought. After several days of prolonged meditation he opted to try a moderate, middle way which would bring an end to suffering. He spent the remaining forty-five years of his life travelling the North East of India teaching, answering questions and engaging in debates with audiences in the towns and villages. He died from natural causes aged about eighty.

Nirvana is the highest possible state of tranquillity and the realisation of no-self and freedom from cravings and attachment. The experience of nirvana gives release from suffering and rebirth. The thirty-one levels of the Buddhist universe ascend from Hell to 'Neither perception nor non-perception.' In this twenty-minute work I have attempted to follow a musical route from depicting base self-seeking human existence through harsh austerity leading eventually to the promise of complete detachment and calm. In the first part of this work, man's striving for pleasure and self-gratification is expressed in harsh, dissonant music that veers between the expression of hollow triumph and despair. The sleazy worlds of jazz and music hall make their appearances before a complex and desperate climax is reached and then cut off by cataclysmic drum rolls.

The second section of the piece is a long extended diminuendo over thirty-one strokes of the tam tam. A sombre brass chorale offset against the piercing sound of unison woodwinds in their highest registers gradually descends into the murky depths of the band. There is a brief restatement of the stabbing chords of the start of the piece before a tense calm is broken by the sound of offstage saxophones impersonating Tibetan horns. Now the colours become more transparent and the harmonic language softens, and the third section introduces a vaguely pentatonic theme that is also derived from the opening. The saxophones are heard again, as well as new, more exotic sounds. In the final moments of the work I was drawn to the Buddha's own description of the end of a person's life likening it to 'A flame that has been blown out. The flame does not go anywhere. Where would it have been before it was here, and where would it go to next?'

Towards Nirvana is dedicated to the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra and their principal conductor Douglas Bostock who gave the first performance in Tokyo in October 2002.

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Dances From Crete (2003)

Commissioned by Timothy Reynish

First Performance:
Royal College of Music, London
Royal College of Music Wind Orchestra conductor Timothy Reynish
14th November 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 to celebrate the good things in life, drawing much of its material from the dance music from the Greek island of Crete , where many of the ancient Greek myths took place. The first movement, Syrtos is intended to serve as a portrait of the Minotaur, the famous creature that was half bull, half man, and fed upon young men and women that were sacrificed to him every year before being killed by the hero Theseus. The character of this movement is harsh and ruthless.

The second movement, Tik is a more graceful dance based on the sinuous movements of young women, but it is also characterised by a certain roughness; and is in 5/8 time. Tim Reynish writes that 'in this movement the whole orchestra should feel the pulse like a Cretan Peasant on the threshing floor.' Following on from this the third movement in a slow 7/4 time is darker in mood and inspired by a steep and perilous walk down the Samaria Gorge; one of the most spectacular of all walks. The movement eventually rises to a triumphant peroration, depicting a welcome plunge into the Libyan Sea . Following distant offstage fanfares the finale, a modern Greek dance, Syrtaki, which bursts in with the offstage trumpeters swaggering back on stage playing a deliberately vulgar theme. The music soon becomes very fast and eventually ends in total festive anarchy, although before the final apotheosis the ghost of the Minotaur can briefly be heard joining the party.

Dances From Crete lasts about nineteen minutes.

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French Dances Revisited (2003-2004)

Commissioned by a Consortium of USA High Schools
2, (2 Picc.) 2, 2, 2, 2

Premiered in Minneapolis USA in November 2004

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 kind of Baroque suite for the same combination. I hope that what I've written doesn't sound too much like a pastiche, but more as an act of reverence for the music of Bach which I have always found so life enhancing.

The six movements of the work follow the model of the Baroque French suite. The first movement is an Overture featuring an angular introduction followed by a fugato in 5/4 time. There follows a stately Allemande led by flute and bassoon, a lively Courante in fast triple time, a mournful Sarabande featuring solo oboe and horn and a Gavotte that also pays homage to Neo-classicism. The piece ends with a Gigue, which makes much use of canonic writing. Towards the end the stern dotted rhythms of the opening of the work reappear before the mood lightens for an exuberant ending.

In this piece I've also tried to follow a procedure of a certain flexibility of instrumentation which has been perhaps the hardest challenge. The two horn parts can be played on saxophones, the music of the second bassoon can be played on a bass clarinet and the oboe 2 part should also work on a clarinet.

French Dances Revisited lasts about fifteen minutes.

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Adrenaline City (2006)

Commissioned by a consortium of US universities

First Performance:
Clarinet Summit , New York , USA
US Military Academy Band conductor Tim Holtan
3rd March 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 comes to the fore in the middle section, and at the close of the work the harmonic tension reaches an exhilarating breaking point before resolving on the tonal centre of A.

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Sunrise and Safari (2006)

Sunrise and Safari was commissioned as the test piece for concert bands for the Singapore Youth Festival 2007.

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 before the melody takes over and rises to a climax.

Night Safari is aimed at slightly more advanced bands and is a depiction of Singapore's world famous Safari park that can only be visited in the dark. I have tried to recapture the sense of excitement and danger as the wild animals are seen (or sometimes just heard) in their natural habitat. The piece is a sort of jazz waltz but with a lot of surprising sounds!)

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Midnight in Buenos Aires (11 mins.) 2007

Commissioned by Harmonie St. Caecilia Blerick.

First Performance:.

Cultureel Centrum De Staay te Blerick.

Harmonie St. Caecilia Blerick conducted by Andreas Van Zoelen.

October 26th 2007

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 intrinsic part of the Tango. The work lasts ten minutes and is in two parts: an opening Andante, which starts with menacing drumbeats and continues in a corrupt and decadent mood. The main Allegro starts in a fragmentary manner, before the trumpet states a 'night club' theme that has an important role through the whole section. There is a short quieter middle section before the return of the 'night club' melody leads to a triumphant climax and a return of the opening drumbeats, before the faster music has the final word. At one point in the Allegro, those with keen ears for inner harmony might spot a reference to Wagner's 'Tristan and Isolde', totally in keeping with the Tango's explicit eroticism.

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Farewell (2008)

Commissioned by the National Youth Wind Ensemble of Wales

First Performances:

Monmouth School for Girls/Cardiff University

National Youth Wind Ensemble of Wales

Conductor Timothy Reynish.

April 5th/6th 2008

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, bass clarinet, bassoons, horns and more gentle percussion, and the mood is more calming and introspective. At first the ensembles play exclusively from each other, but eventually they merge and reach a massive climax focussing on a chord of D minor. At this point a third 'ensemble' is heard for the first time - the notes C and F sharp (which have not been played at all in the work so far). These notes are played ppppp and come to haunt the end of the work. The title refers to Haydn's Farewell Symphony, but instead of all the players walking off leaving two instrumentalists to finish, here a solo oboe and clarinet step forward and quietly lament while the rest of the band quietly intone an eternal modus in diabilis.

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War of the Worlds (20 mins) 2009 – 2010

Commissioned by Bromley Youth Concert Band

First Performance:

St John’s Smith Square Bromley Youth Concert Band

Conductor Michael Purton

Publisher Maecenas

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 as a messenger from a far off place. There follows an out-of-control passage signifying blind panic leading to a fearsome climax, which melts into the third section dominated by descending nebulous chords and a glassily nostalgic celeste solo recalling safer times. This is cruelly cut short by four off-stage saxophones representing the invading Martians playing the same repeating pattern while walking to their seats in the orchestra. A violent allegro follows dominated by this motif, eventually reaching a percussion dominated plateau, where the whole ensemble becomes ‘infected’ by this theme before eventually collapsing.

The final part of the piece features a long and impassioned ‘human’ oboe solo using material already heard on the bass trombone, increasingly finding warmer support from the ensemble. At the very end of the work the off-stage bass trombone returns and the mood darkens. The Martians may have been destroyed, but what of the future?

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Concertino for Alto Saxophone (13 mins 30 secs) 2010

Commissioned by Tim Watson

First Performance :

December 17th 2010 St. Matthew’s Church Northampton Tim Watson and the Northampton County Wind Orchestra

Conductor Peter Smalley

Publisher Maecenas

This work is cast in a single movement and is loosely in variation form, but beginning with a florid cadenza-like passage for the soloist. A gentle, lyrical section in the style of a Gymnopedie is followed by a lively and virtuosic Allegro, which transforms in mood from carefree to something more agitated. At the centre of the work is a bluesy Andante in which members of the band, including a baritone sax and clarinettist interact and complement the soloist. An edgier Allegro culminates in a short but wild cadenza for the soloist. Following a climactic passage there is a recapitulation of the tranquil material from the beginning of the piece, and after a hushed duet with a flute and a memory of the very opening, the work ends in a flash of brilliance.

Concertino for Alto Saxophone was commissioned by the soloist Tim Watson with funds from the Arts Council of England, and lasts approximately thirteen minutes.

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Eternal Voices (35 mins) 2010

Words by Ben Kaye

Commissioned by the Royal Marines Band Service

First Performance :

November 20th 2010 Exeter Cathedral, Sir Trevor MacDonald, Exeter Festival Chorus, Her Majesty’s Band of the Royal Marines

Conductor Lt. Col. Nick Grace

Publisher Maecenas

CD Recording: CHVCD32 (Premiere Performance)

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 this work, both tub thumping jingoism and anti-war agitprop are not evident, although the mystery of music is that the same melodies, harmonies and rhythms can express totally different reactions and feelings from one person to the next. Think of the end of Shostakovitch’s 5th symphony, is it pro or anti Stalin? Or the song ‘Lily Marlene’ which was made famous by Marlene Dietrich and was claimed by both the British and the Germans in World War 2.

My intentions in this work are more intimate, and to achieve this I have been enormously inspired by the marvellous words by Ben Kaye. Within minutes of receiving his script I was able to imagine a clear structure for this work – in effect Ben had given the piece a totally convincing sense of inevitability before I had written a note. The script concentrates on one particular family, a Royal Marine who loses his life in the field of conflict and the effect it has on his wife and young son. The work is in five unbroken sections, but with interjections relating to the ‘story’ of the work spoken by a narrator.

1. Salt of the Sea. Describing the Marines themselves, and their determination and fortitude. I wanted to give the sense of a rolling sea and the majesty of the vessels, inspired by the by the extraordinarily vivid and visionary paintings by the great British artist J.W.W. Turner. The opening of the piece features a gleaming falling motif in the brass answered by rising arpeggios in the woodwind, both of which will feature throughout the work. Towards the end of this movement the choir singing ‘A Capella’ intone the title of the work as it refers directly to the combatants: ‘Let Their Eternal Voices Ring.’ This is followed by a build-up in the ensemble that is abruptly cut off leading directly into the next section.

2. Contact. The word refers to the battle cry used by Marines when there is a threat of enemy action. It also refers to the cameraderie and mutual support in times of battle. This is the fast movement of the work and starts with soft menacing percussion with the word ‘Contact’ first shouted, then sung by the choir. The movement is one long crescendo leading to perceived triumph followed by grotesque unreality with the return of the percussion and finally tragedy. At the end the first solo voice heard is a tenor from within the choir, a marine having been struck down, with his last living thoughts and memories.

3. Coming home. Up to this point the scoring of the piece has been fairly full with no particular instruments coming to the fore for any length of time. Now an off stage soprano saxophone laments over chromatically descending low brass and this leads to all the male voices in unison: ‘Down the Ramp for Your Last Run Ashore.’ There is a more consoling interlude with the women’s chorus before the tenors and basses return, the last word in the low reaches of the bass register. The soprano saxophone returns and the melody line plunges into the depths of a baritone saxophone, also off-stage.

4. The Stars. The sound world changes dramatically as a young boy, the dead Marine’s son looks upwards and remembers his father: ‘Daddy, the Stars.’ Piano, vibraphone and glockenspiel come to the fore along with a chamber group of wordless female voices. Following this the mezzo-soprano soloist grieves for her husband in a monotone closer to speaking than singing. These two starkly contrasting musical worlds are combined before a final impassioned plea from the mezzo- soprano: ‘If I Could Hold You One Last Time,’ before she breaks into a wordless melisma linked to the saxophone melody from the previous movement.

5. Resolution. Beginning with a cor anglais taking over from the mezzo-soprano with a repeating tuba line underneath, the choir return with a message of hope and fortitude: ‘We are as waves that break upon the farthest shore.’ This signals a reprise of the music from the very opening of the work, which in turn leads to the epilogue where soloists, choir and wind ensemble come together as one, although the final bars leaves open as to the possibility of total peace and resolution.

ETERNAL VOICES lasts about half an hour and was commissioned by the Royal Marines Band Service with funds from the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund. The work is dedicated to all Royal Marines and their families who have given the ultimate sacrifice and have been affected by modern conflicts since the year 2000.

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Repercussions (14 mins 30 secs) 2010-2011

Commissioned by Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma

First Performance :

July 2011 Colorado Springs

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Rondo Burlesque from Mahler Symphony no. 9 - Arrangement for Wind Ensemble (12 mins) 2011

First Performance :

The Royal Northern College of Music January 2012

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Educational Works

Suite For Winds (1993)

Commissioned by Berkshire Young Musicians Trust
2, (2 Picc.) 2, 3, Bcl. 2, 4 sax.
10 mins. (pub. Maecenas)

First Performance:
Royal Albert Hall
Berkshire Music Wind Ensemble conductor Charles Henwood
31 st March 1994

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Bridgewater Breeze (1996)

Commissioned by Timothy Reynish
(Version of Suite for Winds for full Band)

First Performance:
Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra
27th November 1996

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Over Hill, Over Dale (1994)

Commissioned by Berkshire Young Musicians Trust
2, (2 Picc.) 2, 3, Bcl. 2, 4 sax.

First Performance:
Leighton Park School, Reading
Berkshire Music Wind Ensemble conductor Charles Henwood
15th July 1994
Version for Wind Band available.

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Battle Symphony (1997)

Commissioned by Berkshire Young Musicians Trust
Picc. 2, 2, 3, Bcl. 2, Cbsn, 4 Sax.

First Performance:
Leighton Park School , Reading
Berkshire Music Wind Ensemble conductor Robert Roscoe

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For details of other educational works see above see the catalogue

Adam Gorb's Website:

Selected Recordings

Work Performer Conductor Record Number
Adrenaline City RNCM Wind Orchestra Clark Rundell QPRM 151D
Awayday U North Texas Eugene Corporon KCD 11091
Awayday US Marines Timothy Foley 3171-MCD
Awayday Tokyo Kosei Douglas Bostock KOCD 3905
Awayday RNCM Wind Ensemble Clark Rundell CHAN 10409
Bermuda Triangle Northamptonshire Orchestral Winds Andrew Bassey NOWCD 2006001
Bridgewater Breeze Rutgers Symphonic Band William Berz 3627-MCD
Dances from Crete Ithaca College WE Timothy Reynish MCD-6804
Dances from Crete University of Kentucky WE Timothy Reynish MCD-5342
Downtown Diversions Band of Royal Marines Chris Davies CHVCD25
Elements RNCMWE/Simone Rebello Timothy Reynish DOY CD127
French Dances Revisited Band of Mid America Donald Schofield BMA-06091
Metropolis RNCM Wind Ensemble Timothy Reynish KCD 11152
Metropolis Ithaca College Rodney Winther 6537-MCD
Midnight in Buenos Aires RNCM Wind Orchestra Clark Rundell QPRM-151D
Yiddish Dances Rutgers Wind Ensemble William Berz 3570-MCD
Yiddish Dances RNCM Wind Ensemble Clark Rundell CHAN 10284
Yiddish Dances National Youth WO Holland Alex Schillings NJH 005001-2
Yiddish Dances Goldstone & Clemlow 2 piano version Divine Art 25032