Stepping Out is a short, ‘up-front’ kind of piece, commissioned specially for the Royal Northern College of Music String Orchestra’s premiere London concert at the Barbican Centre in November 1996.
The piece is based on a short repetitive pattern, heard at the outset, which dominates the music. A second idea, featuring solo strings, is more chromatic and contrapuntal although the basic rhythmic pattern still underpins it. The music gradually loses energy and stops. It starts again, this time a tri-tone away from the opening pitch of A, but then explodes into a wild fugue before the opening returns with a surprise addition to the ensemble.
The style is intentionally eclectic (Adams meets Shostakovich with Gregson thrown in!), but hopefully fits the brief to write a snappy concert opener for string orchestra.
Gregson is no minimalist and the brief polyphonic second section shows how his compositional skills were honed and refined under Bush [his teacher], while he adds a spontaneous lyrical momentum all his own.
Ivan March, Gramophone
… overlays lyrical and ostinato elements. During its three-minute span there is a growing sense of optimism, and a percussive surprise.
Colin Anderson, International Record Review, November 2003
… is a short, dashing work of great energy which the composer rather jocularly describes as ‘John Adams meets Shostakovich, with a bit of Gregson thrown in’.
Hubert Culot, MusicWeb International
Stepping Out is a vigorous string orchestra essay in minimalism which suggests John Adams. Indeed, the booklet quotes the throwaway remark, presumably made by the composer: ‘John Adams meets Shostakovich, with a bit of Gregson thrown in.’
Lewis Foreman, MusicWeb International
First Performance: 6 November 1996
Barbican Hall, Barbican Centre, London, UK
Royal Northern College of Music String Orchestra, Malcolm Layfield (conductor)