James Erber


British composer James Erber was born in 1951 in London of an Austrian father and an English mother. He studied Music at the Universities of Sussex (BA, 1973) and Nottingham (MA, 1975).  While a student at the University of Sussex, he took flute lessons with Gareth Morris and conducted performances of his own realisation of Giulio Caccini’s opera L’Euridice (1600).

In 1976, he began work both as Music Editor for Peters Edition Ltd., London and as freelance editor, writer and translator.  Still largely self-taught as a composer, it was at this period he produced his first acknowledged works, beginning with Seguente for oboe and piano (1976, revised 1980). The guidance and encouragement he received from Brian Ferneyhough prompted him to a serious study of composition, firstly with Jonathan Harvey at the University of Sussex (MPhil in Composition, 1983), then from 1981 to 1982 with Ferneyhough himself at the Musikhochschule, Freiburg-im-Breisgau, for which he received financial support from The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the RVW Trust and the Rivendell Trust.

Since returning to England, he has combined composition with teaching and lecturing, including three years in the Music Department at Goldsmith's College, University of London from 1991 to 1994. He has written articles and lectured widely on his own work. He was invited as guest lecturer to the Darmstadt Ferienkurse in 1988 and 1990, having won a Stipendienpreis there in 1986. In 1994 and 1996 he was shortlisted for the Hinrichsen Foundation bursary and in 1994 received a Holst Foundation Award, enabling him to write Abiya for solo piano.  In January 2015 he was composer-in-residence at the soundON festival of Modern Music, San Diego CA.

James Erber's work reflects a wide range of interests, including Renaissance and Baroque music, the music of South-East Asia, Jazz, blues, Mediaeval and Renaissance philosophy, Kabbalah, green politics, recent scientific developments, film noir, Jacobean tragedy, the Gothic novel and historical slang. His music is technically demanding for the player, being multi-layered and complex (especially from the point of view of rhythm and form). Its complexity is, however, combined with harmonic clarity and lyricism as well as a tenuous sense of optimism and a concern with intellectual and spiritual continuity diametrically opposed to much of present-day musical culture.

It has been performed and broadcast widely throughout Europe, in Australia, New Zealand and the USA by soloists such as Mario Caroli, Matteo Cesari, Carin Levine, Nancy Ruffer, Christopher Redgate, Carl Rosman, Darragh Morgan, Frank Cox, Ian Pace and Jonathan Powell, as well as by ensembles including Lontano, Exposé, 175 East, the Arditti Quartet, NOISE and ELISION.  Matteo Cesari's critically-acclaimed recording of The ‘Traces’ Cycle and three other shorter works for solo flute is available on Convivium Records. Other works will be found on NMC, Metier and Centaur Records (USA).

List of Works

Seguente (1976-80) for oboe and piano

Night-Music with Doubles (1980-82) for clarinet in Bb, viola and piano

Tacciono i boschi (1981) for soprano and piano

Cantata I (1980-81) for soprano, piano and percussion

Music for 25 Solo Strings (Epitomaria-Glosaria-Commentaria) (1981-84)

Benedicat te Dominus (Offertorio) (1982) for soprano and organ/harmonium

…working together  (1984) for clarinet in Eb (clarinet in C), bass clarinet in Bb  (clarinet in C), trumpet in Bb, violin and cello

Flourish (1986) for solo flute

Fax (1986-90) for 2 bass clarinets in Bb, viola, cello and piano

Aurora (1988-2006) for solo piano

Traces (1991) for solo flute

nel mezzo (1993) for solo piano

An Allegory of Exile (1992-5) for string quartet

Abiya (1995) for solo piano

You done torn your playhousedown (1996) for solo piano

le colonne d’Ercole (1996) for solo cello

àNeM (1996) for solo piano

rara avis (1996) for solo treble recorder

rara avis (B) (1996) for solo clarinet in Eb

rara avis (C) (1996) for solo tenor saxophone 

Am Grabe Memphis Minnies (1997) for solo guitar

The Ray and its Shadow (1982-97) for alto flute (flute), bass clarinet in Bb (clarinet in Bb), cello and piano

Traces B (1997-98) for solo flute

Fluctuations (1999-2006) for solo piano

Strange Moments of Intimacy (1999-2001) for solo clarinet in C

Melodia/armonia (2000) for solo violin

Sprag (1999-2000) for flute, cor anglais, bassoon, horn in F, trombone and double bass

Trattenimento da Camera (2000) for two bass flutes

Qfwfq (2003) for solo piano

Das Buch Bahir (2003-2005) for flute (alto flute), soprano saxophone (tenor saxophone), bassoon, horn in F, trombone, violin, viola, cello and double bass

Traces C (2006) for solo flute

The Death of the Kings (2007) for clarinet in Bb, bass clarinet in Bb, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, horn in F, tuba, 2 violins,viola, cello and double bass

Mox Nox (2009) for bass clarinet in Bb, 2 violins. viola and cello

Landscape (with Laocoon and his Sons) (2010-12) for clarinet in A, trumpet in C and percussion (1 player)

Hieronimo and Bazardo in the Garden (2005-6, rev. 2010) for 2 bass clarinets in Bb

String Quartet no.2 (2010-11)

ein andrer Hauch for solo piccolo (2012)

Crai for two soprano saxophones (2013-16)

Desire Lines for solo alto flute (2013-14)

Four Aspects of Euridice (2014-15)

Elided Dilapidations for solo piano (2014)

A Greater Revelation (2015) for flute and clarinet in Bb

Memorial for piano trio (in progress)