In League with Extraordinary Gentlemen combines two of composer Peter Graham’s life interests – composition and 19th century popular fiction. Each of the concerto’s three movements takes its musical inspiration from extraordinary characters who have transcended the original genre and have subsequently found mass audiences through film, television and comic book adaptations.
The first movement follows a traditional sonata form outline with one slight modification. The order of themes in the recapitulation is reversed, mirroring a plot climax in the H.G. Wells novella The Time Machine (where the protagonist, known only as The Time Traveller, puts his machine into reverse bringing the story back full circle).
The Adventure of the Final Problem is the title of a short story published in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. This is an account of the great detective’s final struggle with his long-time adversary Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. The music takes the form of a slowed down ländler (a Swiss/Austrian folk dance) and various acoustic and electronic echo effects call to mind the alpine landscape. The final bars pose a question paralleling that of Conan Doyle in the story – have we really seen the last of Sherlock Holmes?
The final movement, The Great Race, (available separately) follows Phileas Fogg on the last stage of his epic journey “Around the World in Eighty Days” (from the novel by Jules Verne). The moto perpetuo nature of the music gives full rein to the soloist’s technical virtuosity. As the work draws to a conclusion, the frantic scramble by Fogg to meet his deadline at the Reform Club in Pall Mall, London, is echoed by the soloist’s increasingly demanding ascending figuration, set against the background of Big Ben clock chimes.
In League with Extraordinary Gentlemen was first performed in the brass band version by David Thornton and the Black Dyke Band, conductor Nicholas Childs, at the RNCM Concert Hall Manchester on January 30, 2009.