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British composer Julian Anderson (b. 1967) studied with Alexander Goehr at Cambridge, and with Oliver Knussen at Tanglewood. He also studied with the “spectral” composer Tristan Murail, and Anderson’s Alhambra Fantasy is dedicated to the memory of another French spectralist, Gérard Grisey. (Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic gave the world premiere of Grisey’s L’icône paradoxale, a joint commission with La Scala, in January 1996.) Alhambra Fantasy was commissioned by the London Sinfonietta, and Knussen conducted the premiere in February 2000. The composer has put the following note in the published score.
“Alhambra Fantasy is scored for 16 players and is a celebration of the art and architecture of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. I am concerned with the splendor of the Palace itself, its place in the landscape, and its relevance to the complex history of this ‘Moorish’ region of Spain.
“The two parts of the work, sharply contrasted, relate to two different facets of the Alhambra. The first part, rough and energetic, is related to the building of the Palace itself and is dominated by sounds of hammering and banging on all manner of percussion. Innumerable short motifs are counterpointed and juxtaposed in the manner of a mosaic. The second part, perhaps evoking the beautiful landscape of the Vega, is slow and lyrical. This is not program music, however, and I would rather leave listeners to form their own images from the turbulent contrasts evident in the music.”