wind orchestra
Text François Rabelais
Commissioned by Andre Fischer for Stadtmusik Illnau-Effretikon
 Effretikon, Switzerland

The commission was organised by André Fischer who in 1990 was conductor of two Wind bands. This work was for the Stadtmusik Illnau-Effretikon (between Zürich and Winterthur).

André had already chosen the theme: food, eating, and he had programmed some pieces with vague references to eating (Rossini: Cenerentola, Strauss: Zitronenblüten, etc.). I immediately suggested doing something on Gargantua and was surprised to find out that Rabelais is not nearly so well known here as in English speaking countries. André was excited about the idea, the commission was agreed upon: CHF 5000.-, the money was to come from the local Rotary Club. It was the first time I had had anything to do with such people. André and I were invited to a dinner with the Rotary Club in which we entertained them with stories of Gargantua - they weren't noticeably put off their food, and they still paid up! Just before the premiere we were invited to a press conference at which the culture column writers of the various local rags were informed about the impending spectacle. It was most interesting to observe how proud the members of the band, who normally played marches and polkas, seemed to be to be interpreting the strange new music. The president of the band explained to the press writers how he had to read notes whose pitch was not precisely indicated, or was expected to improvise with fragments and even to speak rhythmically.

The work was performed twice. On the day before the first performance I made changes to the ending. André came to dinner, studied the new bars, learnt them by heart, and rehearsed them with the band an hour before the start. I later changed these bars yet again in the version 1 prepared for publication (by Reift). The most successful part of Gargantua is for me the Gathering of the Troupes. All players have fragments to repeat within the subsections of this section. There is also a good spatial effect since the trumpets (this band uses trumpets and cornets) are placed left, right and centre. What I find less convincing are the spoken parts: Milch, Milch, gibt ihm zu trinken, etc.