Featured Composer: Phillip Garbé


Phillip Garbé is a French-born Australian pianist and composer. Well regarded by his compositional peers for his non-pretentious style and contrapuntal excellence, Phillip has always maintained that tonal music has a place in the modern high-art performance circuit.

His first forays into composition began at the age of 10, only a few years after beginning piano lessons in his humble childhood setting of the Victorian high Country. While it might be presumed that growing up, playing and writing in the isolated Australian wilderness established his style, Phillip attributes most of his musical and artistic motivations to the influence of Boris Guslitser, who taught him piano during his late teens.

A set of [fairly typical early adult] epiphanies at the age of 21 led Phillip to pursue music without distraction, giving up a career in both distance running and his studies in neuroscience. He was awarded a Bachelor of Music in Composition in 2008, studying under Stuart Greenbaum. Since then, he has focused on writing miniatures, scoring for radio broadcasts/short films and electronic music.

Among his celebrated works are Infinity (for string Octet), an electronic album by the title Epic and 24 Preludes and Fugues for piano.

After a 3 year hiatus, Phillip has again begun composing, with this concert marking his official return to world of music.

Phillip Garbé's new work Intermezzo was premiered in PLEXUS: Panorama on 21 September 2015 at the Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre.

Intermezzo (2015)

Intermezzo began in 2009 as an attempt to recapture the exuberance and pastoral aspects of earlier works by the composer. Almost never leaving its tonal centre, it attempts to stand back from overly dense or academic formulas. It is, however, serious in the tone and colour it conveys. Intermezzo is ballad-like in style; episodic, but also mature in its architectural form. 

The piece opens with a con licenzia introduction; a hint, but not a full expression of themes to come. The overarching melody is introduced with a 6 voice fugue and, at the same time, introducing an adroit and somewhat undisciplined approach to counterpoint that sets the harmonic flavour for the remainder of the piece. A second theme is brought to light with a more exciting and rhythmic passage, eventually mixing both major themes together in an early climax that quickly collapses to silence. An extended development passage follows on from there; testing the themes through diminution and augmentation; exploring imagery of emotional turmoil and disorder. A bell-like tolling then marks the onset of a quicksilver cadenza where, as if emerging from the mist on a cold morning, the deep and imposing final climax begins. The climax builds itself slowly; a gradual and almost exhausting crescendo that eventually reveals a sense of thematic purpose, almost as if a great realisation has been made.   In the final minutes of the Intermezzo, energy is restored in a mystic and pensive reflection of what has come before. It ends with the sense of achievement and striking majesty of the human spirit.

– Phillip Garbé