About Gordon Getty

Discover the work and life of the great American composer

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Gordon Getty, Composer

The music of the American composer Gordon Getty has been widely performed in North America and Europe in such prestigious venues as New York’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, London’s Royal Festival Hall, Vienna’s Brahmssaal, and Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Hall and Bolshoi Theatre, as well as at the Aspen, Spoleto, and Bad Kissingen Festivals. In 1986, he was honored as an Outstanding American Composer at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and he was awarded the 2003 Gold Baton of the American Symphony Orchestra League.

Getty has recently devoted considerable attention to a pair of one-act operas, Usher House (derived from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”) and The Canterville Ghost (after Oscar Wilde’s tale). The former will be premiered in 2014 by the Welsh National Opera. Getty’s first opera, Plump Jack, involving adventures of Shakespeare’s Sir John Falstaff, was premiered by the San Francisco Symphony in 1984 and has been revived by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, and London Philharmonia, among other ensembles. In 2011 the Munich Radio Orchestra and an international cast conducted by Ulf Schirmer performed a new concert version of Plump Jack, which was simulcast on Bavarian Radio and released in 2012 by PentaTone Classics. The same label is preparing the release of Usher House, with Lawrence Foster conducting the Gulbenkian Orchestra Lisbon.

Although most of Getty’s works feature the voice, he has also written for orchestra, chamber ensembles, and solo piano. In 2010, PentaTone released a CD devoted to six of his orchestral pieces, with Sir Neville Marriner conducting the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, and in 2013 it followed up with a CD of the composer’s solo-piano works played by Conrad Tao. Currently in preparation is a PentaTone CD of his chamber music, which will include a string-quartet version of his Four Traditional Pieces, a work that was performed in a string-orchestra arrangement by Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra in 2012. Other recent performances of particular note featured his ballet Ancestor Suite, which in 2009 was given its premiere staging, with choreography by Vladimir Vasiliev, by the Bolshoi Ballet and Russian National Orchestra at the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, and was then presented at the 2012 Festival del Sole in Napa, California.

Of his compositions Getty has said: “My style is undoubtedly tonal, though with hints of atonality, such as any composer would likely use to suggest a degree of disorientation. But I’m strictly tonal in my approach. I represent a viewpoint that stands somewhat apart from the twentieth century, which was in large measure a repudiation of the nineteenth and a sock in the nose to sentimentality. Whatever it was that the great Victorian composers and poets were trying to achieve, that’s what I’m trying to achieve.”

Getty’s music is published by Rork Music.

April 2013