Edward Gregson’s new work for the Bridgewater Hall’s ’Mahler in Manchester’ Festival was recently premiered with great success. The BBC commissioned the work to preface a performance of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony. Entitled Dream Song, it was given its premiere on March 27 by the BBC Philharmonic, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda. The work was broadcast at the beginning of May on BBC Radio 3 on its evening concert series slot,

Performance on 3. The composer received a tremendous ovation at the conclusion of the performance.

Dream Song is a 20 minute work for large orchestra, dramatic in structure and content. It uses certain motives from Mahler 6, but paints them onto a different canvass, albeit one that still uses a post-romantic world of musical expression.

Reviews in the National Press have been very favourable:

Tim Ashley, writing in the Guardian commented that:

’Of all the works commissioned for the Mahler in Manchester series, this is possibly the most ambitious. It is scored for the same forces as the Sixth, though the urban cool of a steel band has replaced Mahler’s alpine cowbells. Gregson also draws much of his thematic material from the Symphony, twisting it into a three-section dreamscape, in which a thudding central scherzo is framed by two reflective slow movements. Gregson’s ability to suggest a world both familiar and strange is impressive…. Noseda conducted it with great suavity, and Gregson was warmly applauded after its final bars had died away.

Whilst David Fanning in the Telegraph observed that:

The unenviable task of warm-up act fell to Edward Gregson… For his 20-minute Dream Song he has elected to bring various themes from Mahler’s Sixth into new conjunctions, with a neo-Mahlerian harmonic language and added instruments that Mahler might conceivably have used had he known of them (such as steel drums).

For the restlessness and eruptive energy of the fast writing Gregson has evidently had to dig deep, and the quoted material, though plain to hear, is sufficiently re-contextualised to feel emotionally authentic… a passionate and dedicated premiere performance.

And Andrew Clark in The Financial Times suggested that:

With celesta and cowbells in the frame, Gregson leaves the impression of a composer who has had fun harnessing his musical processes to Mahler’s, without allowing Mahlerian angst to invade his own expressive temperament. The result is a confident potpourri of melodic and rhythmic motifs that tickles the palate…

Robert Beale in the Manchester Evening News enthused as follows:

His mastery of orchestral scoring, and brass sound in particular, is apparent throughout this work. And although he’s the only one, it seems, of the composers asked to write for this series who’s taken the idea of partnering Mahler entirely seriously, I hope Dream Song will find a life of its own, even without Mahler on the same bill. It deserves to.

And finally….

It’s a formidable piece of composing, with the orchestra handled with total assurance – Hilary Finch in The Times

Further information on the work, including a full programme note, can be found under ’Works