Robin Holloway profile
Compositions by Robin Holloway
Transcriptions by Robin Holloway
Peer Gynt, op.84Panorama, op.84aOcean Voyage, op.84b
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Uncertain how to describe and define Peer Gynt's hybrid juxtaposition and combination of so many media.  More than a concert-opera à la Damnation de Faust (though equally definite in not being for the stage): might be a Gesamtkunstwerk (except that the term is so specific to Wagnerian music-drama).  "World-Theatre" seems to have the right connotations.  I suppose that if the monster were ever to reach performance it would have to be in the concert hall, with or without "visual aids".  But what I dimly conceive, in my pre-technological fashion, is that the entire content in all its multiformity could somehow be compacted into a slim lightweight pack encoding a cross between televized concert / opera / ballet / play, plus animated cartoon film (à la Fantasia, and taking into account all the amazing advances since), plus gorgeous filmed travelogue (Peer's 30-year Ocean Voyage with its extended episodes in the Americas, the Far East, India, Central Africa, Egypt), that could equally well be heard and seen in the private home or the public auditorium. 

Peer Gynt was initially mooted at the same moment as Brand.  As with Ibsen himself the two are complementary:  first the grim morality of the boy who stays at home, confronting as modern hero the latterday dragons of the contemporary world;  then the riotous adventures of the boy who bursts the bonds, making home too hot to hold him, escaping to take the whole contemporary world as his onion, sucking it dry and finding the bitterness, then the nothingness at its centre as he returns old and spent yet still salved in his mother / sweethearts's enduring love. 

That initial impulse thought to combine the two tales.  While Peer passes his prime travelling the globe, the listener would pass the time hearing the ballad of Brand whose life grows ever narrower, till after his débâcle with the glacier, the alter ego returns to resume the other story, encounter the Button-Moulder, confront his past, make his peace with himself, and merge into Solveig.  This was crazy:  both these gigantic subjects need the full canvas of an entire evening to do them justice. 

I've put my ALL (as Brand requires) into this huge affair, with next to no hope of its ever being realized.  If I'd not written it I'd have lived and died unused at the highest level to which I can aspire.  Will the white elephant ever be awakened from its sleep, yawn and stretch, blow its trumpet, sing and louder sing, before flying off into the azure on swan's wings? 

The two extended extracts would work well enough in the concert hall (the Ocean Voyage hasn't yet been played);  but will always seem to lack a dimension in their reduced scoring and absence of the detailed visual scenario on film. 

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