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Works for Orchestra

Doubles (2011) for orchestra

Commissioned by the BBC. Premiered by the BBCSO conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek,16/05/2009.

The title of this work refers both to the way it is constructed and to the nature of its content. It is a continuous piece made up of six movements, in which the first three are ‘doubled’ in the same order by the remaining three, rather than any melodic or harmonic elements.  It is this aspect of the piece that was the driving principle in its composition. Nevertheless, most of the material for this work is stated in its first few pages, and this material is constantly varied and developed in each of the six pieces. There is also a further play on the meaning of the title in that each double shows a different aspect of the ideas and character of its original, changing, so to speak, its nature, direction and personality. For example, the first piece starts loudly and spirals inwards towards a quiet ending while its Double, the fourth piece, starts fairly lightly and spirals outwards, increasing relentlessly in force and volume. 

"Brian Elias’ Doubles was one of the most impressive pieces of orchestral music I have heard in a long time... Elias’s paroxysmic orchestral writing packs a punch, with the phenomenal resourcefulness of the scoring provoking gap-jawed astonishment...Intellectually and physically, it’s a white-knuckle ride, a thrilling experience."

Martin Anderson, Tempo

The House That Jack Built (2001) for orchestra

Commissioned by the BBC. Premiered by the BBCSO conducted by Sir Andre Davis, 22/03/2002.

The playground and all its rumbustiousness rather than the more gentle nursery is the setting for The House That Jack Built. The moment to moment construction attempts to mimic the furious and manic activity of the playground with its rapid succession of games, chants, calls, jeers, taunts and jibes all repeated frequently at random. Many of these calls impress themselves on our memories instantly and for life, first by their rhythmic force and then by their obsessive quality, which like all ritual acquires unexplainable and magical meaning. This aspect is one of the main building blocks of the piece. It is the manner in which these rhymes and games are made up and played as much as their often bizarre imagery and glorious nonsense which provide background for The House That Jack Built. The work is not programmatic in any way, and with the exception of one well known and easily recognisable musical catchphrase, I have not quoted from or referred to any particular rhymes or games. The single quotation is sounded very early in the piece and generates much of the subsequent material. 

"Purely as psychodrama, then, The House is gripping. But what makes it really memorable is the clarity and vigour of Elias's orchestral writing. Humming throughout with perky rhythms, never cluttered, and full of imaginative ideas (including the 21st-century equivalent of the Pizzicato Polka), it struck me as among the best things that the 53-year old composer has penned."

Richard Morrison, The Times

L'Eylah (1984) for orchestra

Commissioned by the BBC. Premiered at the BBC Proms, 30/08/1984


 L’Eylah - to transcend, to be above - is dedicated to the memory of my sister, Toya. The title comes from the Kaddish, an ancient Aramaic doxology in praise of God, the author of life and peace, temporal and eternal. The Kaddish, now traditionally a mourner’s prayer, puzzled me when I first began to understand it, for it did not mention death, but spoke only of life and peace, of a greatness that transcends, that is 'beyond any blessing or song that we can utter'. In the same manner that the words of the Kaddish are not ‘for’ the dead but a pledge from the living, L’Eylah is not a dirge, requiem or liturgical work. Rather I intend it to be a work of celebration and an affirmation of things that endure, a sanctification of life, which is the literal meaning of the term ‘Kaddish’. 

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