Orchestration: piccolo, 2 flutes, 3 oboes, 2 clarinets (2nd = E-flat clarinet), bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (bass drum, 2 congas, cymbals, glockenspiel, large claves, large tam-tam, 4 log drums, marimba, 4 temple blocks, vibraphone, and 4 wood blocks), piano, harp, and strings. First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: October 8, 1998, Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting (U.S. premiere).
Gambit is, as its name suggests, a shortish work of overture character for large symphony orchestra. It is based on a few gestures, or archetypes, which are combined and juxtaposed in different ways during the nine minutes of Gambit. The two main ones are a descending, mainly pentatonic scale-like gesture and a basic rhythm [eighth-sixteenth-sixteenth] (and combinations thereof). The archetypes themselves do not change much, only the environment in which they appear. There is no variation in the traditional sense of the word. Some harmonic progressions, as well as the persistent minor-third figure in the introduction, are deliberate, free quotations from Magnus Lindberg’s music. I have dedicated Gambit to this talented friend of mine as an homage on his 40th birthday.
Gambit was first performed in Amsterdam, on June 6, 1998, with the composer conducting the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra; it was performed again a few weeks later in Helsinki.
Notes by Esa-Pekka Salonen.