Anthony Gilbert House composer
Tough yet often humorous, Gilbert's music reflects the uncompromising spirit of its creator. His dogged individualism is clear not only from his determination, relatively late in life, to become a composer, but also from his subsequent pursuit of artistic goals that answered personal challenges rather than topical concerns of the avant-garde. Although he has written in most of the major genres, his output resists conventional classifications of either sensibility or technique. The common factor in his works is his fertile imagination, which is charged both by his musical ideas and his thoughts on the nature of performance.
In Anthony Gilbert's new Rose luisante he appears to penetrate straight to the heart of the music's soul.
The inspiration here [for Rose luisante] is purely and seductively visual: Gilbert's responses to the light diffusion and the intricate form of the western Rose Window of Bayeux Cathedral have nurtured a ten-minute piece of beguiling beauty, its slowly refracting harmonies sensuous, its variations on a curling chant haunted by Eastern modes and spectral, toccata-like dances.
And this event [Gilbert's 70th birthday event] comes at an apparently propitious time for Gilbert, too. On the evidence of Rose luisante, heard in a recital earlier this year, Gilbert might be hitting a new, Indian-summer stride. Tinos, the new piece in the present concert, and the only one written since 1992, continued that impression, though this setting of Spanish symbolist poetry for soprano, clarinet and vibraphone, exquisitely scored as it was, proved too brief to make more than a fleeting impact. I look forward to hearing the promised cycle of which it is part.
Sophisticated and understated, Encantos was a vivid, poetical response to a series of haunting texts. Gilbert handled his reduced forces with immense creativity, expertly tempering unflagging invention and a winning sense of fantasy with a sharp ear for telling sonority.
On Beholding a Rainbow is a piece of great lyrical beauty and one of the great violin concertos of the late 20th century. It also illustrates the point that for all its technical complexity, Gilbert's music is first and foremost of great expressive strength. Indeed, when listening to a piece of his, one always forgets all the workings behind the music and one begins to appreciate the energy, the poetry, the intelligence, integrity and originality of it. These words from Douglas Jarman's article Notes on the Music of Anthony Gilbert aptly put his music into perspective.