Sheer Anthony Gilbert

Sheer cover
15 mins

Orchestra String Orchestra

1 Orchestral Strings

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Programme note

Sheer might also be called ‘a song of ascending’, since most of the material, both linear and harmonic, is drawn either directly or by a process of elaboration from the rapid rising scales heard on Basses and then Cellos near the beginning.  This taut introduction is interrupted by an extended Chorale marked Intense, which begins beguilingly enough but becomes more and more emphatically contrasted, reaching a climax and then quietly dissolving into a resumption of the opening phrases.  An elaborate cantabile line emerges, whose structure is related to that of Middle-Eastern chant.  This carries the music forward to a more extended development over a slowly-rising bass pedal rhythm.  The Chorale is not done with however;  it returns again and again in various guises creating tension, conflict and unresolved crises, usually but not always causing the rising melodic line to recommence its ascent from a low point.  The music ends on the sheer threshold of . . . perhaps a new beginning?

Sheer is one of four substantial works for strings composed by Gilbert between 2001 and 2003, each conveying a gentle socio-political message.  It was commissioned by the English Chamber Orchestra with funds generously provided by the RVW Trust.  The first performance was directed by Stephanie Gonley at the Prague Spring Festival on 26th May 2006, with the British premiere conducted by Benjamin Wallfisch in Bristol the following month.

English Chamber Orchestra, dir. Stephanie Gonley, Dvořák Hall, Prague Spring Festival, 26 May 2006
  • 9 Jun 2006 |

    St. George's, Bristol


    ECO cond. Benjamin Wallfisch

  • 26 May 2006 |

    Prague Spring Festival, Dvorak Hall, Prague


    English Chamber Orchestra dir. Stephanie Gonley (unconducted perf.)