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  • Geoffrey Gordon (b. 1968): PUCK - fleeing from the dawn:
  • 1Gordon: PUCK - fleeing from the dawn06:56
  • Mad Song:
  • 2Gordon: Mad Song: The wild winds weep, And the night is a-cold…04:54
  • 3Gordon: Mad Song: Lo! to the vault Of paved heaven…08:21
  • 4Gordon: Mad Song: Like a fiend in a cloud With howling woe…05:03
  • ICE - aut inveniam viam aut faciam:
  • 5Gordon: ICE - aut inveniam viam aut faciam17:57
  • Prometheus:
  • 6Gordon: Prometheus: According to the first…06:13
  • 7Gordon: Prometheus: According to the second…04:55
  • 8Gordon: Prometheus: According to the third…07:31
  • 9Gordon: Prometheus: According to the fourth...08:30
  • Total Runtime01:10:20

Info for Geoffrey Gordon: Mythologies and Mad Songs

Mythologies and Mad Songs is the culmination of an intense three year burst of creativity during which I wrote all of the works on this disc. It represents, in that sense, a kind of sonic document – a tangible record of my love of the orchestra and the universe of sound and color it provides, as well as a snapshot of some of the things that inspire me, from Shakespeare, Blake and Kafka (and the mythology and magic of their works) to the extraordinary longing for exploration deeply embedded in the human spirit. I remember the first time I saw David Scott’s Puck Fleeing from the Dawn – a work from 1837 now held in the National Galleries of Scotland. It spoke directly to my love of Shakespeare and that play, but also to the fascinating concept of what might have happened after the curtain came down. Dreamlike. Yet also bursting with energy. The music came quickly (and it isn’t always so obliging….).

Mad Song, the second work recorded here with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, has a similar vibe but a very different source of inspiration. Words not images. But images fashioned from words. William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience lit my love of poetry in college. I have been looking for a way to write a Blake-inspired work ever since. And this is it. The text of this Mad Song (included below) speaks for itself – riveting, harrowing, full of passion and madness. Who wouldn’t want to score that? Seize my brain, indeed.

The longest work on this disc is inspired by the shortest text – Kafka’s treatment of the Prometheus legend. I loved his concise retelling of this story from the moment I saw it. Each of the four lines of Kafka’s poetry draws out a movement of this work (with a coda expressing the lingering and inexplicable mass of rock that remained) for bass clarinet and orchestra premiered by the Philharmonia at Royal Festival Hall. It was a magical night for me and in many ways ignited the period of creativity captured on this album.

The outlier may appear to be ICE – aut inveniam viam aut faciam (I shall make a way or find a way). After all, it isn’t inspired by a work of art – or is it? Think of it as a response to the art of exploration. The extraordinary events surrounding the exploration of Earth’s poles – and the poles themselves, at once magical and supremely unforgiving – have always fascinated me. There’s a kind of cognitive dissonance inherent in the almost frantic race to reach such stoically unchanging destinations. It is also not lost on me that one of the scores I fell in love with at an early age was Vaughn Williams’ Sinfonia Antartica – a score that somehow sounded cold. I hope mine does, too.

What a privilege it has been to work with Martyn Brabbins, these soloists and these world class orchestras. A special thanks to everyone at the BBC and BBC Radio 3 for their support of this project. I am deeply honoured to share the results with you now. (Geoffrey Gordon, March 2024)

Dimitri Mestdag, English horn
Laurent Ben Slimane, bass clarinet
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Philharmonia Orchestra
Martyn Brabbins, conductor

Martyn Brabbins
is an inspirational force in British music. Music Director of English National Opera 2016-2023, Brabbins has had a busy opera career since his early days at the Kirov and more recently at La Scala, the Bayerische Staatsoper, and regularly in Lyon, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Antwerp. He guests with top international orchestras such as the Royal Concertgebouw, San Francisco Symphony, DSO Berlin and Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony, as well as the Philharmonia, BBC Symphony and most of the other leading UK orchestras. He is a popular figure at the BBC Proms, who in 2019 commissioned 14 living composers to write a birthday tribute to him. Known for his advocacy of British composers, he has conducted hundreds of world premieres across the globe. He has recorded nearly 150 CDs to date, including prize-winning discs of operas by Korngold, Birtwistle and Harvey. In 2023 he received the RPS Conductor Award for his “colossal” contribution to UK musical life.

Laurent Ben Slimane
was born in France where he studied the clarinet at the Conservatoire Superieur de Paris (CSP) with Richard Vieille and the bass clarinet with Bruno Martinez. Laurent joined the Philharmonia Orchestra in 2005 and is also a founding member of Ailleur5 in France with whom he has recorded two CDs for Cristal Records. Laurent has played with different orchestras including the London Symphonic Orchestra, London Chamber Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic of Manchester, Northern Sinfonia, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Orchestre de Chambre de Paris, Orchestre National de France. He is currently Professor of bass clarinet at the Royal Academy of Music, and Professor at the PonteCultura International Summer Academy in Corsica.

Dimitri Mestdag
has been the solo English horn player of the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra since 1996. He graduated at the Conservatory in Brussels under Paul Dombrecht and Alex Van Beveren with master degrees in oboe, English horn and chamber music. After masterclasses with Thomas Indermuhle, Alain Denis, Dominik Wollenweber, Ingo Goritzki and David Walter he completed his training at the Rotterdam Conservatory with Emanuel Abbühl. Dimitri a was prize winner of Belfius Classics in 1991 and in 1996 the very first laureate on English horn of the Tenuto competition. In 2020, BIS Records released the world premiere recording of Kalevi Aho’s double concerto of English horn and harp. Geoffrey Gordon’s English horn concerto ‘Mad Song’ was composed especially for him and was commissioned by the Antwerp Symphony and recorded with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Next to his activities as a musician and teacher he is, since 2010, artistic director of Arbanassi Summer Music, a unique chamber music festival in Bulgaria. This festival has become one of Eastern Europe’s most innovative and high-profile festivals. Dimitri leads a thriving English horn class at the Royal Conservatory of music in Brussels.

This album contains no booklet.

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