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Meet Composer Edward Gregson posted 07 Feb 2020

Meet Composer Edward Gregson

Composer Edward Gregson tells us about the five pieces of music, book and luxury he would take to a desert island. ​

Brahms – Symphony No 1 (Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Rafael Kubelik)
This was the first piece of classical music I remember hearing, as an eleven year old at my first Grammar School, and it had a profound impact on me - in fact, I was blown away! It has stayed with me ever since, and is music of profound depth, passion, and compositional sophistication.

The Beatles- Yesterday and many other songs 
When I was studying at the Royal Academy of Music, the Beatles were reaching the heights of their creative originality, and most students really ‘got them.’ Of course, they wrote some of the all-time greatest popular songs and Yesterday, with its string quartet backing, was ground-breaking and iconic. It also has personal associations for me as it was the first record that Sue, my wife to be, bought me. 

Mozart – Symphony No 41 (Jupiter) (Orchestra Mozart/Claudio Abbado)
Not to have Mozart on a desert island would be a loss too great to bear. Of course there are so many wonderful works to choose from, but his final symphony incorporates everything that is so ‘human', dramatic and compelling in his music. The final movement is a master class in writing counterpoint!

Mahler – Symphony No 6 (Chicago Symphony Orchestra/George Solti)
I'd have to have one Mahler symphony on my desert island and this is one of the best; tragic and uncompromising though it is. I was commissioned by the BBC Philharmonic to write a companion piece to this symphony for the Mahler in Manchester Festival in 2010. It caused me many hours of suffering!

Stravinsky – The Rite of Spring (Columbia Symphony Orchestra/Stravinsky)  
Most composers of today have been influenced by Stravinsky's music, and of course The Rite is the one work that exemplifies this influence. Stravinsky is undoubtedly the 'godfather' of modernism, much more say than Schoenberg, whose music as the twentieth century progressed became far less influential. The Rite is a work of such towering and ground-breaking originality, that it is still difficult to imagine how he wrote it as long ago as 1913. When I first heard it as a student at the RAM it sent me to another planet. His music has influenced me more than any other composer, and there are even traces of that influence in my Oboe Concerto.

PS To only be able to choose five composers is difficult – what about Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, and Shostakovich…there’s another five for a different day!

Book: The Complete Works of John Donne - I have loved John Donne’s poetry ever since I studied him for my ‘A’ level exams. It is some of the most passionate poetry every written.

Luxury Item: A Steinway Grand Piano and library of great piano music - a chance at last to exercise all the hours of practise I was too lazy to undertake when I was younger.

Book for the BBC Philharmonic performing the world premiere of Edward Gregson's A Vision in a Dream: concerto for oboe and orchestra at Leeds Town Hall on Saturday 8 February.