Elliott Gyger is one of Australia’s outstanding composers, known for his wonderful chamber operas Fly Away Peter and Oscar and Lucinda, orchestral works, choral music, chamber music and instrumental and solo works. He is a highly-respected composition teacher at Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne and author of the book The Music of Nigel Butterley in Wildbird’s Australian Composers series.
Inferno (2013) for solo piano is one of the great Australian piano works. The composer has written about Inferno in the introduction to the score:
Powerful images from Dante’s vision of Hell provide programmatic starting-points for a series of pieces whose internal logic is nonetheless purely musical. The vocabulary imprisons powerfully expressive gestures within tightly controlled structures, creating Lisztean tableaux of virtuosity and damnation influenced by Messiaen, Carter, Ligeti, Birtwistle and other giants of the post-war avant-garde.
The cycle consists of nine Etudes for the nine Circles of Hell, framed by four brief Interludes corresponding to the Rivers of Hell, together with a Prelude and Postlude. Each Etude explores a different subset of the piano’s range, moving gradually downward and alternately expanding and contracting across the cycle. All four Interludes, by contrast, traverse the same harmonic field spanning the entire range of the instrument, as well as the same metrical structure. Another recurring element is the transposition of Dante’s distinctive terza rima (three-line stanzas with interlocking end-rhymes: aba bcb cdc …) onto musical parameters.– Elliott Gyger
Inferno was conceived as a single work, designed to be played in its entirety. However, Gyger shows us in the introduction some possible selected sections of the score for pianists not wanting to play the complete work.
A recording of this work is available on Inferno: The piano music of Elliott Gyger (MD3376; 2014) an album recorded on the Move Records label by pianist Michael Kieran Harvey.
Precipice (2010) for oboe and piano was commissioned as part of the celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. The composer has written in the introduction to the score:
A pièce de concours denotes a work for solo instrument and piano, intended as a test piece for advanced students. It typically includes opportunities for slow, expressive playing, demonstrating the player’s control of tone quality and phrasing, as well as rapid, agile passages to display technical facility. The term sometimes carries connotations of musical slightness – but there are certainly counterexamples, among them Debussy’s celebrated Première Rhapsodie for clarinet and piano.
Precipice takes the idea of the pièce de concours as its starting point, but arranges its various components into an unexpectedly dark narrative. In addition to its topographical meaning, there is a less common definition of “precipice” as a precarious state or situation of great peril: connotations of danger and excessive speed (as in the adjective “precipitous”) are also relevant to the mood of the work. The oboe here is intrinsically a plaintive, lyrical instrument — agility is attainable but doesn’t come naturally, and always seems vulnerable to collapse.– Elliott Gyger
Precipice has two movements: “At the edge” and “After the fall.” This publication comes with a main score for the pianist and a separate part for the oboist.
Wildbird is pleased to announce that these two scores can be ordered online: Inferno $45.00 plus postage, and Precipice $29.95 plus postage. Scores will also be available to purchase from the Australian Music Centre.