For more than 20 years, Adam Gorb has led the composition course at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.
One of the Welsh-born composer’s favorite works is Bartók’s Mikrokosmos, a collection of 153 miniature pieces for piano. There is no doubt that Adam Gorb, too, possesses a huge talent for striking piano miniatures. His 24 Préludes from 2019 and 2020 (they take you through all 24 keys) are delightful, eclectic conceits, averaging under three minutes in length.
The skill requirements alternate between extreme finger virtuosity and lyrical sentiment, but the fast and flashy predominate. The work is full of cheer and relish, playfully juggling elements of the tonal and atonal traditions. Harmony is set against clusters, Klezmer homage contrasts with gamelan allusion, percussiveness alternates with late romantic chords. Suggestions by other composers flit by like friendly shadows, a short bow to Ustvolskaya, a gentle allusion to Bernstein, some Scarlattian light and a little Mahlerian darkness. Adam Gorb originally intended to write not only 24 preludes but as many fugues – the last and by far the longest piece in the cycle is a reminder of this. Finally, there’s an encore in the form of Velocity, inspired by the movie Speed. In this brilliant “Prestissimo accelerando” the pianist may once again prove her dexterity.