All week between February 14–18, BBC Radio 3’s Composer of the Week show will be on British composer Edward Gregson, who offers a fascinating window into his own story and also the life and work of his mentor, Alan Bush. Donald Macleod will speak to Gregson about both his and Bush’s significant contributions to Britain’s musical story, and will feature the varied catalogue of Gregson’s compositions.
Over the five episodes, the series will delve into Gregson’s musical life that started with studying composition with Alan Bush between 1963 to 1967 at London’s Royal Academy of Music. Since then, Gregson has worked solely to commission writing orchestral, chamber, instrumental and choral music, as well as music for theatre, film and television. The first, third and fifth episodes focus on the music of Gregson, highlighting his natural gift for melody and brilliant orchestral colour that have made him a popular choice with audiences and performers across the world.
The second and fourth episodes look at the life and music of Bush, who also spent time studying at Royal Academy of Music and went on to found the Workers' Music Association and the London String Orchestra. Bush's musical output includes more than one hundred orchestral, instrumental and vocal works, together with four full length operas and four symphonies. However, his conversion to communism put him at odds with the British establishment and his music fell out of grace.
Monday 14 Exposition and Developments
The first episode focuses on some significant moments in Gregson’s early career including his upbringing within the Salvation Army, an early knock-back from an influential conductor, and his first forays into the world of brass bands.
Gregson Concerto for Orchestra (III. Toccata)
Gregson Quintet for Brass, (1st mvt)
Gregson Music for Chamber Orchestra (I. Lento maestoso)
Gregson Six Little Piano Pieces (Nos. 1-4)
Tuesday 15 A Political Awakening
Macleod and Gregson explore Alan Bush’s story–how Bush’s dazzling talent catapulted him to early attention and followed him to 1920s Berlin where he witnessed, first-hand, the rise of German fascism and how Marxism became a driving force in his music.
Wednesday 16 The Manchester Years
Macleod discusses Gregson’s move to Manchester, as principal of the Royal Northern College of Music and his fascination for writing concertos.
Gregson Stepping Out
Gregson Violin Concerto (2nd mvt)
Gregson Shadow of Paradise
Gregson Make a Joyful Noise
Gregson Clarinet Concerto (Part 1)
Thursday 17 Rejection and Renewal
The episode explores Bush’s opera, which were very successful, however not in Britain, where his communist views were being viewed with increasing suspicion. His stage works were presented many times and to huge acclaim in East Germany and the USSR. Macleod and Gregson reflect on what British audience have yet to discover about Bush and his legacy.
Bush Three Concert Studies (I. Moto Perpetuo)
Friday 18 Dream Song
The last episode of the series focuses on Gregson’s more recent works and his personal feelings that lie behind his Mahler inspired, Dream Song for Orchestra.
Gregson Symphony in two movements (I. Toccata)
Gregson String Quartet No 1 (1st mvt)
Gregson Dream Song
Listen back to Edward Gregson and Alan Bush Composer of the Week on BBC Sounds or the BBC Radio 3 website.