ALEXANDER GOEHR: On the pros and cons of writing in the shadow of Bach

Alexander Goehr is one of the UK’s most important contemporary composers: a pupil of Messiaen, Goehr rose to prominence along with Peter Maxwell Davies and Harrison Birtwistle, with whom he formed the New Music Manchester group in the 1950s. This month a new recording of three of his works ­– Marching to Carcassone, When Adam Fell and Pastorals – has been released on Naxos. We spoke to him about his inspirations and why being the son of a musician is a mixed blessing.

The first work on this recordingis When Adam Fell. Where does that title come from?

One of the ideas for the piece was to use the bassline of Bach’s chorale Durch Adam’s Fall ist alles verderbt, which is an extraordinary one in representing the fall of Adam. It’s a very dramatic bassline – all the intervals fall by sevenths and sixths and it’s very expressive. It was a great favourite of my teacher Messiaen, he used to play it in class and I picked up my love of it from him. The English version of the title is ‘When Adam Fell’.

Read the rest of the interview here

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