His commissions have included, amongst others, orchestral music for the English Chamber Orchestra, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the BBC Philharmonic, and the Hallé, with performances by many other orchestras and ensembles around the world. Of particular significance in his orchestral output is a series of concertos (for horn, tuba, trombone, trumpet, clarinet, piano, violin, saxophone, cello and flute) which he commenced in 1970 and is still ongoing. His most recent work for large orchestra, Dream Song, was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 for the 2010 ’Mahler in Manchester’ Festival, and premiered by the BBC Philharmonic under Gianandrea Noseda to great critical acclaim. It has been recorded on the Chandos label on a recently released fourth volume of his orchestral works. Gregson is also internationally renowned for his contributions to the wind and brass repertoire.
Critical AcclaimI have no hesitation in declaring Gregson to be one of the most significant British composers currently active in this country … - Robert Matthew-Walker, International Record Review (January 2011)
… if one of the touchstones of enduring worth in classical music is the ability to keep in touch with the popular language of the time - and I for one believe it is - then Edward Gregson's music is going to be valued long after the more esoteric creations of today are consigned to the museum. - Robert Beale, Manchester Evening News (July 2008)
This is a remarkably individual composer who writes in the mainstream of 20th century English music …. He proves a superb craftsman, with great orchestral flair and genuine melodic gifts. - Ivan March, Gramophone
Edward Gregson was born in Sunderland in 1945. He is a composer of international standing whose music has been performed, broadcast, and recorded world-wide. He has written orchestral, chamber, instrumental and choral music, as well as music for the theatre, film, and television, and has completed commissions for orchestras such as the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the Bournemouth Symphony, the Hallé and the BBC Philharmonic. His major orchestral works include Music for Chamber Orchestra (1968), Metamorphoses (1979), Concerto for Orchestra (1983), Blazon (1991), and Dream Song (2010). However, it is his concertos for various instruments that form the backbone of his orchestral output: horn (1971), tuba (1976), trumpet (1983), trombone (1979), clarinet (1994), piano (1997), violin (2000), saxophone (2006), cello (2007), flute (2013), cornet (2017), euphonium (2018) and oboe (2019).
His contribution to the brass band repertoire has been of huge significance, from early works such as Essay (1970), The Plantagenets (1973) and Connotations (1977), his ‘middle period’ works, including Dances and Arias (1984), Of Men and Mountains (1991), and The Trumpets of the Angels (2000) – to his more recent Rococo Variations (2008), Symphony in two movements (2012) and Of Distant Memories (2013). He has also written music for brass ensemble including two brass quintets, two brass quartets, Three Dance Episodes for brass octet, and fanfares for various occasions.
His music has been extensively recorded, and perhaps of special note is the ongoing series of his orchestral music and concertos on the Chandos label. Volume 4 including Dream Song, Aztec Dances, Horn Concerto and Concerto for Orchestra, recorded by the BBC Philharmonic and Bramwell Tovey in December 2013 is available to purchase from July 2014. Also noteworthy is the survey of his complete brass band music, which Nicholas Childs commenced in 1992 on his then new Doyen label. The latest volume (no. 6), including his new Four Etudes and Cornet Concerto, was released in January 2017.
Edward Gregson has had an impressive career as an academic, from his time in the music department of Goldsmiths College, University of London (1976-96), to his appointment as Principal of the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) in Manchester (1996-2008). He retired from academe in 2008 in order to concentrate on composing. He holds honorary degrees and fellowships from a dozen English universities and conservatoires, and is a Companion and Emeritus Professor of the RNCM. He sits on a number of Boards relating to music education and the music profession, and has been a writer-director of the Performing Right Society for Music since 1995.
Gregson speaks about the history of the Festival of Brass, its importance, and his contribution to the repertoire at the Royal Northern College of Music, 2017.
5th September 2020
- Joseph Johnson, cello
- Cactus Chamber Musicians
- Arash Ertefai
- Tempe Center for the Arts, Tempe, AZ