Meet the Composer: Geoffrey Gordon

Meet the Composer: Geoffrey Gordon

Geoffrey Gordon's Prometheus had its world premiere performance in London just three months ago. Gordon tells us a little bit about himself, his music and what has happened since the premiere, as he prepares to visit Minneapolis to hear the piece performed by the Minnesota Orchestra on April 24, 25 and 26.

What has been going through your mind about Prometheus since its world premiere in London?

We’ve been editing the recordings we made of the performances with the London Philharmonia, so I feel like I am still immersed in the atmosphere of that premiere. Rarely does a composer get to indulge in this kind of experience, with multiple (sensational) orchestras and soloists playing a new work over such a brief time frame. So I’ve been enjoying that and anticipating the Minnesota Orchestra performances! Prometheus has been going through my head for more than a year now and I am finding it absolutely fascinating to hear different interpretations of this work.   

List three words that you would use to describe your own music.

Expressive. Intense. Rooted.

What are you listening to lately? 

I listen to all kinds of stuff. Mostly classical, lately lots of late 19th- to early 20th-century orchestral music: Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Prokofiev, Sibelius. Also, the Britten operas, which are uniformly extraordinary. And rarely does a day go by that I do not listen to the Beatles, because they are the best (non-classical) thing ever. I am also a fan of jazz (Charlie Mingus) and early music (lately, Guillaume de Machaut). 

What is your favorite place to travel?

I really love London. I love England generally and always enjoy my time there. In my job, I get to go to lots of pretty cool places, so sometimes it’s hard to choose. I am looking forward to being in Sweden later this month and Quebec next season. In terms of the Midwest, I have a deep connection to the American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin, where I have been going with my family since I was a kid. 

What are some of your favorite career highlights thus far?

I have been lucky—there have been many. The Carnegie Hall premiere of my cello sonata, FATHOMS (after Shakespeare’s Tempest) a few seasons ago was pretty cool. I grew up in New York, so that meant a lot. A recent commission from the Curie Institute in Paris, to write a chamber work inspired by the Big Bang, was also really good. And hearing Prometheus at Royal Festival Hall...hard to beat that. 

For those in our audience who are unfamiliar with your work, which of your pieces would you suggest they seek out to learn more about your music?

I think there are about 70 of my works available online in one form or another. I might suggest Saint Blue, a double concerto for trumpet, piano and strings, commissioned by the English String Orchestra and recorded on the Signum label last year. Also, my Cello Concerto after Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus, commissioned by the Copenhagen Philharmonic. We just recorded this with cellist Toke Moldrup and conductor Lan Shui—it should be out next year (there is a live recording on my Soundcloud, from Danish Radio), along with a choral setting of John Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale, with the Mogens Dahl Chamber Choir. In terms of clarinet writing, maybe my Clarinet Quintet, written for the JACK Quartet and New York Philharmonic principal clarinet Anthony McGill. The New York premiere of that work is available on my Soundcloud as well. 

When you aren’t composing, what do you do for fun?

I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t composing, so this is a hard one to answer! But I really like movies, restaurants, literally any kind of sport, and the odd nap. It’s a very full life. 

Details about Minnesota Orchestra's performances of Prometheus >>

More about composer Geoffrey Gordon >>

Minnesota Orchestra Staff