2009 was not only Gilbert’s 75th on earth, but also his 50th in music. Whilst working as translator and interpreter in the 1950s, he became a composition student of Mátyás Seiber, Anthony Milner and then Alexander Goehr, achieving prominence in the following decade through a series of virtuoso chamber works performed in Britain and abroad. During this period he also worked his way up from warehouseman and invoice clerk to House-Editor at Schotts, who were also his music publishers for 32 years. For some 40 years he has also been closely involved in the promotion of new music and in the teaching of composition: at Morley College (his alma mater), Goldsmiths’ College, as Head of Composition and Contemporary Music at the Royal Northern College of Music, and during 1978-9 as Senior Lecturer at the New South Wales Conservatorium.
Gilbert’s output of well over 100 compositions encompasses almost every genre; his first five song-cycles were commissioned and much performed by Jane Manning; more recently much of his vocal writing has been settings of French and Spanish poetry, two languages very close to his heart. A setting of John Clare, however, is his most recently-released vocal work: part of the award-winning NMC Songbook collection on CD. In 2009 he completed a 5th String Quartet, premiered at the RNCM on 7th January 2010 by the Heath Quartet, and a group of 20 short pieces for student pianists. Further CDs are in the offing: Richard Casey’s and Ian Buckle’s recordings of his piano music, the French song-cycles on a disc recorded as an 80th-birthday tribute to Sir John Manduell, both to come out on Prima Facie, and music for bass clarinet and tenor saxophone to be recorded by Henri Bok and Eleri Ann Evans.