Orchestral

 

Partita (2016)
  • Partita is an excellent buy…a thoroughly engaging creation. Phibbs’s acute ear for colour and caprice brings alive some seriously appealing music. This premiere performance was clearly excellent and Sakari Oramo suggested that Phibbs’s Partita is a hit with him too.”
    Colin Anderson, The Classical Source

  • “Phibbs’s writing is brilliantly assured, and his orchestration is not only deft but scintillating…The eponymous ground bass is a mere two notes, but is as effective as it is original, and its return at the end of the sixth and final movement rounds off the piece splendidly.”
    Paul Driver, The Sunday Times

  • “….it revels in the orchestra’s sonorities.”
    Erica Jeal, The Guardian

  • “..captivated the audience’s attention. This was not music to accompany thought, but music that inspired thought of only the music and what was coming next.”
    Jessica Marcus, Bachtrack

  • “..in Partita we now hear the voice of a fully mature artist.”
    Gavin Dixon, The Arts Desk

Rivers to the Sea (2012)
  • “..a tour de force….characterised by richly layered, encrusted textures which travel across the orchestra like an advancing avalanche. It deserves to enter the repertoire.”
    Fiona Maddocks, The Observer

  • “Phibbs’s orchestral music is both exciting and marvelously crafted”
    Bernhard Hughes, Tempo (2014)

  • “..an extremely virtuoso handling of the orchestra. The composer demonstrates phenomenal craftsmanship, in ways that are not only full of effect but also structurally and poetically compelling. The closely-woven string textures in the first and third section, or the double-basses set against the Xylophone in the second and bass lines and percussion effects in the Finale- all contribute to the overall concept and organization of the piece. At the end it was difficult to distinguish whether the enthusiastic applause was bestowed more upon the composer (who was present) or upon the orchestra, which under the direction of Esa-Pekka Salonen achieved masterly excellence.”(..der äußerst virtuosen Behandlung des Orchesterapparates. Der Komponist zeigt hier phänomenales handwerkliches Können, das er nicht nur effektvoll, sondern auch strukturell und poetisch überzeugend einsetzt. Die dicht gewobenen Streicherflächen im ersten und dritten Satz oder die gegen den Xylophon-Klang gesetzten Kontrabässe im zweiten und auch die Bassläufe und Schlagwerk-Effekte im Finale stehen alle im Dienste der übergeordneten Stück-Idee. Am Ende war schwierig zu unterscheiden, wem der begeisterte Applaus mehr galt, dem anwesenden Komponisten oder dem Orchester, das unter Leitung von Esa-Pekka Salonen virtuos auftrumpfen konnte.)
    Bernhard Hartmann, General-Anzeiger

  • “Written for the eighteenth birthday of The Anvil, Joseph Phibbs’s Rivers to the Sea is a major work from this youngish composer whose output operates at a consistently high level of imagination and engagement. The title itself may be straightforward but it soon becomes clear that it is only a way into the music’s naturally evolving web of connections and consequences – the rivers’ flow of experience – hovering tantalisingly between the abstract and the recognisable. With a new work you can’t help being on the alert for influences to help get a handle on it. There are shades of Bartók, Sibelius and Britten as well as contemporary Americans (Phibbs has studied in the US and his response to that special American openness and intensity is a big element in his creative make-up), but the assimilation is complete and the style exceptional, and it seduces you into his unique world.In its three movements Rivers to the Sea juxtaposes passages of slow growth, frenetic activity and virtual immobility, with a nocturnal opening of subliminal beauty, orchestrated with a spellbinding mastery, leading into some genuinely fast music (‘Night Fugues’) that plays virtuosic games with harmonic and rhythmic pace. The shift from a central interlude, a neutral if highly-charged vocalise for solo clarinet against strings, into an initially barely-discernible chaconne, edges the music into further mobility, with the accumulative surge of the final ‘Neon with Sunrise’ a blatant celebration of New York. The meshing of mood, pace and orchestration in this substantial, 25-minute piece is consummate, and its ambitious range visionary and hugely satisfying. Roll on the next Phibbs premiere.”
    Peter Reed, The Classical Source

  • “A beautiful work…The composer, who was present, was rightly the object of deserved ovations.”
    Roberto Mastrosimone

  • “There can be few challenges for a composer more daunting than writing a companion piece to a Mahler symphony. Fortunately Joseph Phibbs has the measure of the task, and his new work, Rivers to the Sea, neither competes with Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony, nor is it overwhelmed by the scale or impact of that monumental work.The piece was commissioned to celebrate the 18th birthday of the Anvil concert hall in Basingstoke, where it received its première last week. It is no doubt easier to make an impression in that more intimate venue, but the work has enough substance to make a mark in the Festival Hall too.The scale of the piece is deceptive. A large orchestra is kept busy for the best part of half an hour, yet the musical material it explores is slight. Phibbs takes a laudably disciplined approach to his task, devising a selection of colourful but straightforward ideas and allotting each a separate movement. The formal plan resembles a symphony – four movements arranged around a central interlude – but the actual music is anything but symphonic. There is little development here, and instead Phibbs presents each movement as what he calls a ‘musical snapshot’, drawing on specific sonorities and colours, and laying out each over the course of a four or five minute movement.If this relationship between colour and form suggests Debussy, that’s unlikely to be a coincidence. The mention of the sea in the work’s title demonstrates how, like Debussy, Phibbs uses the idea of undulating waves as inspiration for his orchestral textures. The big difference is the (English?) reserve with which Phibbs applies the idea. Unlike Debussy, he always has his feet very securely on dry land and never gets carried away in the moment. And that small group of musical ideas, elaborated within clearly defined confines, creates a sense of discipline in the music that Debussy would be unlikely to recognise.Other voices are also heard in the background. The work is dedicated to this evening’s conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and there are traces here of Salonen’s own music, particularly the minimalist pulsations from the double basses and the maximalist presto runs in the upper woodwind. A much stronger presence is Salonen’s compatriot and hero Sibelius. The horn writing throughout the work harks back to Sibelius’ symphonies, and Phibbs’ reserved approach to his otherwise Romantic aesthetic suggests the economical discourse of Sibelius’ late symphonies. There is also some Latin percussion in the mix, although this seemed intended more for colouration than rhythmic propulsion.The piece received as fine a performance as any young composer could ask from the Philharmonia. There was little here to tax the orchestra, apart, perhaps, from the more complex textures of the final movement. There were some great opportunities for the orchestra to show off its principal players though, and honourable mentions go to the clarinet, harp, tuba and xylophone soloists.”
    Gavin Dixon (www.gavindixon.info), Seen and Heard International

  • “…another impressive work from Phibbs’s pen. Opening in luminous and pregnant terms, and beautifully crafted, such expectation leads into ‘Night Fugues’, thrillingly fast-paced and diverting. An interlude for clarinet and strings follows that curls out its slow riffs before vistas are opened out with a leviathan of a horn solo that would fit into ‘This ae night’ (from Benjamin Britten’s Serenade). A feature is made of a harp and a further magical weaving of sounds leads the listener to an awakening chirruping en route to a neon-coloured pulsating New York-celebratory final section. This is music to hear again.”
    Colin Anderson, The Classical Source

  • “With Mahler’s mighty Second Symphony, the ‘Resurrection’, guaranteeing a full house, the composer whose new work preceded it was also fortunate in being able to write for vast orchestral forces. Now in his mid-30s, Joseph Phibbs, whose 25-minute Rivers to the Sea had its London premiere in this Philharmonia programme conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, seized his opportunity.A continuous work in four movements, it takes its title from a poem by the American writer Sara Teasdale. Phibbs himself describes the presence of the sea as a driving force behind the piece. Certainly, its plasticity and flow suggest some ongoing continuum in motion, rising to frenetic activity in the fast sequences – Phibbs sees the last as an urban landscape – while more soberly atmospheric in the two slow sections.What impresses throughout is the accomplishment of the harmonic and orchestral writing, both utilising a layering technique where more than one thematic element is heard over and against another. Though each maintains its identity, the resulting dynamic momentum accrues from the thrill and complexity of the resulting collisions.”
    George Hall, The Guardian (5* review)

  • “Commissioned by the Philharmonia, Joseph Phibbs’s Rivers to the Sea is a symphonic work of great power and beauty. In it harmonic textures and orchestral colour are deftly interwoven as images pastoral and urban spread across the musical landscape towards a broad oceanic horizon. There are acknowledged reflections of Sibelius and Mahler, but the work remains firmly of its age, and the fact that it proved able to captivate a large audience speaks not just of Phibbs’s mastery of his medium, but also of great hope for the future.”
    John Rushby-Smith, Hereford Times
    [Three Choirs Festival performance (23 July 2012), Hereford Cathedral, cond. Adrian Partington]

  • “Phibbs handled the orchestra with great assurance. The Three Choirs Festival has had a reputation for conservatism in some quarters. The warmth of the audience’s reception both for the performance and for the composer himself rather disproved that notion.”
    John Quinn, Seen and Heard International
    [Three Choirs Festival performance (23 July 2012), Hereford Cathedral, cond. Adrian Partington]

  • “Rivers to the Sea is a kaleidoscopic essay in sound, constantly eddying and flowing much like the sea itself. It’s also brilliantly scored – Phibbs has an acute ear for instrumental timbres – and makes very effective use of all orchestral departments…it was stunningly well played by the Philharmonia and conducted by Partington with tremendous aplomb.”
    David Hart, The Birmingham Post
    [Three Choirs Festival performance (23 July 2012), Hereford Cathedral, cond. Adrian Partington]

Towards Purcell (2012)
  • “Phibbs’s exquisitely imagined opus sustains well its 17-minute course. It’s essentially a lyrical piece (stimulated by percussion riffs), its Purcell inspiration being directed to, with Britten (who had a Purcellian assignation of his own, of course) and, to a lesser extent, Lutoslawski as references. With the three soloists in fine form, the expressive, intense and atmospheric Towards Purcell made a big first impression, something quite typical with Phibbs’s music.”
    Colin Anderson, The Classical Source

  • “All sections of the orchestra had a chance to show their skill…This work could be a staple of musical education to match Britten’s Young Person’s Guide.”
    Graham Mordue, Ealing Times

Concertino for clarinet and strings (2009)
  • “The Stratford-based Orchestra of the Swan performed a new work that they had commissioned, a clarinet concerto by Joseph Phibbs, the soloist Sarah Williamson. A fabulous piece and a fabulous player.”
    Gavin Dixon (www.gavindixon.info)

  • “a very attractive little concerto”
    Anthony Burton, BBC Music Magazine 2010

The Moon’s Funeral (2009)
  • “a masterly piece of word-setting.”
    Michael Church, The Independent

Shruti (2007)
  • “Shruti continues Phibbs’ admirable relationship with ‘the orchestra’ and it may be taken as a compliment that Shruti, at four minutes or so, is too short – there seems a longer piece here in the exotic and raucous opening…and the ensuing luminously scored reflection, both parts of the diptych being evocative. Petrenko and the LSO gave a thoroughly fine first performance.”
    Colin Anderson, The Classical Source

  • “Odd though it might be to complain that a contemporary piece is too short, this one, running to only four or five minutes, sounded like a proposal for a longer one, with ear-catching ideas that seemed ripe for further development.”
    Geoffrey Norris, The Daily Telegraph

  • “London-born Phibbs has already established his credentials in the orchestral arena, and his new work, Shruti – the title refers to a canon of sacred Hindu texts – shows a vivid command of colour. It also reflects his fascination with foreground and background. In the first and faster of its two sections, groups of players vie frenetically for attention before a sudden universal uprush catapults the listener into the slower second, where a solo clarinet holds sway over a static string foundation.”
    George Hall, The Guardian

  • “What begins in stuttering, nervy, motion with caterwauling clarinets quickly dissolves into serene stasis.”
    Edward Seckerson, The Independent

Lumina (2003)
  • “…wonderfully evocative… the wide open landscapes of upstate [New York] to the scintillating reflection from the New York skyline were all clear in this brilliant score, expertly played. Great reception it got too – thoroughly deserved”The Classical Source”Lumina was the first ray of light in the first half…under the baton of Leonard Slatkin the players of the BBC Symphony Orchestra were clearly excited by Phibbs’s exuberant exploitation of their skills in the world premiere of a work which alternated slow yet dazzling dawns over Coplandesque landscapes with glittering, volatile cityscapes of rapid figuration, spangled by piano, pitched percussion and woodwind”
    Hilary Finch, The Times

  • “A dazzlingly articulate depiction of changing light in New York State”
    Paul Driver, The Sunday Times

  • “In a good year for new music at the Proms, it was appropriate that Joseph Phibbs’s Lumina managed to make an impact here…Lumina’s clever alternation, and overlapping, of affecting, though never cloying lyricism and well-orchestrated but never vacuous glitter didn’t once risk alienating his enormous audience”
    Keith Potter, The Independent

  • “Carefully shaded sonorities…a real sense of speeding towards its climax.”
    Andrew Clements, The Guardian

  • “Brass cried like wild beasts, strings soothed their anxiety, Phibbs having structured the piece around shifting contrasts between music played slow, and music played fast. Eventually unity broke out, a bright clarinet tune pointing a way out of Phibbs’s enchanting landscape”
    Nick Kimberly, The Evening Standard

  • “Phibbs…was saddled with the task of writing something interesting while appealing to a Last-Night audience [and] overcame these disadvantages with genuine aplomb. Lumina…was excellently crafted; displayed a subtle use of the orchestra, undoubtedly learned from Birtwistle, a former teacher, and kept a boisterous audience quiet for more than ten minutes. No mean feat. …it was the most successful response to a Last-Night commission since Panic”
    John Warnaby, The Musical Review

In Camera (2001)
  • “…a highly polished essay in orchestral technique and large scale structure…the piece has a coherent sweep from beginning to end…the BBCSO and Leonard Slatkin responded warmly to this well-crafted synthesis of different modernist traditions”
    Tom Service, The Guardian

  • “…expertly shaped as well as competently orchestrated”
    Keith Potter, The Independent

  • “…his textures gleam and glisten, offering a kaleidoscopic range of colour…In Camera is a highly accomplished score”
    Barry Millington, The Times

  • “…an accomplished set of five diverse little pieces”
    Paul Driver, The Sunday Times

  • “…a striking talent…kaleidoscopically colourful and ingenious…a rich imagination at work…Phibbs sounds like one to watch”
    Jessica Duchen Classical Music (voted Classical Music Premiere of the Year 2001)

  • “We are willing to follow him wherever he goes as fold after fold of his 15-minute score opens up to us. He has a sure command of orchestration…Phibbs has eloquence and esprit at his command and I will listen to anything he offers”
    The Washington Post

  • “…an enviable command of the orchestra…In Camera is accessible and pleasing…his creation of mood and atmosphere are compelling features…Phibbs has a technical armoury and an imagination that should see him go far”
    Colin Anderson, The Classical Source

  • “Phibbs’s work was presented with orchestral transparency, exactness and temper…it is a five movement work, brilliant, above all a study full of a knowledge of vertical invention of sound and subtle rhythmic will”
    Jure Dobovisek, Slovenian press, following the closing concert of the ISCM’s 2003 World Music Days in Slovenia.

Dreams of a Summer Night (2000)
  • “…the first performance of the mere seven minutes of Joseph Phibbs’s Dreams of a Summer Night was well worth giving…it is not only brilliantly written for orchestra, which is remarkable enough for a composer in his mid-twenties, but also ingeniously constructed…a tautly sustained display of orchestral fireworks”
    Gerald Larner, The Times