Gerald Barry Instrumental & Chamber Works

Author: 
Arnold Whittall

Gerald Barry Instrumental & Chamber Works

  • Au Milieu
  • Sur les Pointes
  • Triorchic Blues
  • Swinging Tripes and Trillibubkins
  • Triorchic Blues
  • Piano Quartet
  • Bob
  • UNTITLED
  • Sextet

Gerald Barry (b. 1952) will often begin his compositions with the suggestion that a fairly rudimentary minimalist kit is in operation: links with the likes of Michael Nyman or Graham Fitkin may float into the listener's mind. More often than not, these connections cease to make sense, as Barry proves to be more interested in discontinuity and contradiction than in draining the last degree of musical interest out of barely varied repetition. This music is invigorating and entertaining precisely because you can never be sure what is going to happen next.
The non-verbal title of the earliest work included suggests a reference to La Monte Young's celebrated text piece ''Draw a straight line and follow it''. Lines certainly matter to Barry—he's a resourceful contrapuntist—but they are never straight. Even so, the music can provoke uncomplicated responses. Sur les Pointes and Au Milieu are exhilaratingly virtuosic piano solos, brilliantly played here by Noriko Kawai, and in both cases the structures are turned inside out as sustained display yields to fractured reticence. Even in the shortest pieces most strikingly of all in the violin version of Triorchic Blues—this basic Barry principle can make its effect. But it is the trilogy of recent ensemble pieces Bob, Piano Quartet and Sextet which confirm the composer's ability to mine his personal stylistic vein without lapsing into self-parody.
Bob is a particularly effective demonstration of a simple idea acquiring shadows as it unfolds, while both the Quartet and the Sextet show how Barry creates tension through contrapuntal interactions, and form through the balance of highly contrasted textures. There is a strong Irish flavour to the material of these later works, and the confident performances by the Dublin-based Nua Nos are excellently recorded.'

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