Why Eric Whitacre is your new favourite orchestral (not just choral) composer

When we want a pan-diatonic choral cluster-chord, we generally know who to turn to. But here's why the blond maestro's orchestral music is also worthy of your attention.

Photo by Robert Garbolinski

Equus (for orchestra)

Let's begin with this cracking piece, composed in 2000 and inspired by the moto perpetuo (a piece that starts running and never stops). The composer describes his style here as "dynamic minimalism" - but beyond that minimalist, almost Baroque feel to the structure and style, it's a really epic romp with some soaring lines towards the end. Enjoy:

The River Cam (for solo cello and string orchestra)

He came to Britain, he fell in love with Cambridge and its river, and then he got all Vaughan Williams and Finzi on us. Not a stiff-upper lip in sight though, so the harmonies are very, very sexy. Basically, if you like your music with a touch more seasoning, this one's for you - we think it's gorgeous.

Bonus Whitacre river footage! Here he is, standing on the Cam, wind through his hair, talking about modal part-writing. Dream.

Godzilla Eats Las Vegas (for wind symphony)

That awkward moment when a giant amphibious reptilian monster crashes your swanky, slightly fruity cocktail party. He's taking liberties with the canapes and the iPod playlist before everything gets a little violent. Yeah, it's the soundtrack to that, and it really just needs to be heard to be believed. 

A Boy and a Girl (for string orchestra)

So in your heart you're a choral geek who thinks instruments are a passing fad. Well, this might be the instrumental Whitacre piece to change your mind. There's no choir here, but this instrumental setting of one of Eric's rich, luscious and endlessly inventive songs really is quite something. Great for choral karaoke as well.

Ghost Train (for wind orchestra)

This was the first piece Eric Whitacre ever wrote for instruments, inspired when he snuck into a wind symphony's practice and was blown away by the sheer volume of what went on. It's bombastic, jazzy, freaky. Like listening to Gershwin having an argument with a hipster on a subway. 

Eric describes Ghost Train as a "total fluke." Blimey, some composers have all the luck...


Eric Whitacre Composer Eric Whitacre

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