for six voices (three sopranos, three tenors), or SSATTBar
Text: Petrarch
Duration c. 70’
Dedication: John Potter
First Performance (of 4) Trio Mediaeval Sextet, Norway April 2002;
first complete performance Yorvox, Cambridge July 19th 2002

Note : Second Book of Madrigals (published ED 12786)

Second Book of Madrigals (published ED 12786)

  1. Benedetto sia 'l giorno (SSATTBar)
  2. Io son già stanco (SSATTBar)
  3. Quando dal proprio sito / Ma poi che 'l dolce riso (SSATTBar)
  4. Poi che voi et io (SSATTBar)
  5. Non veggio ove scamper (SSATTBar)
  6. Ponmi ove 'l sole (SSATTBar)
  7. Non Tesin, Po, Varo (SSATTBar)
  8. I' vidi in terra angelici (SSATTBar)
  9. O passi sparsi (SSATTBar)
  10. Una candida cerva sopra l'erba (SSATTBar)
  11. Che fai? Che pensi? (SSATTBar)
  12. Amor, che meco al buon tempo ti stavi (SSATTBar)
  13. Fu forse un tempo dolce (SSATTBar)
  14. Morte à spento (SSATTBar)

Marconi's Madrigal: Se 'l sasso ond' è più chiusa questa valle (SSSTTT and percussion)

Instrumentation: speaking voices, tape
Duration: indeterminate
Published in EMC Verbal Anthology.
First performance: Portsmouth College of Art, 14 January 1970.

Duration: 20’
Instrumentation: 4 pianos
First performance: Castello Sforzesca, Milan, 23 June 1979.

Duration c.15'
Instrumentation piano(s)
Written for dance by Christine Juffs (Dance Work)

Text: Edwin Morgan
Duration: c. 6'
Male Choir
First performance Estonia Symphony Hall, Tallinn April 6
Estonian National Male Choir, conductor Kaspars Putnins

Note : Text of Silva Caledonia

Text of Silva Caledonia

The darkness deepens, and the woods are long.

We shall never see any stars. We thought

we heard a horn a while back, faintly brought

through barks and howls, the nearest to a song

you ever heard in these grey dripping glens.

But if there were hunters, we saw not one.

Are there bears? Mist. Wolves? Peat. Is there a sun?

Where are the eyes that should peer from those dens?

Marsh-lights, yes, mushroom-banks, leaf-mould, rank ferns,

and up above, a sense of wings, of flight,

of clattering, of calls through fog. Yet men,

going about invisible concerns,

are here, and our immoderate delight

waits to see them, and hear them speak, again.


Text: Edwin Morgan

First performance Gary Karr, Basses Loaded
cond. Sarah Klein
Philip T Young Recital Hall, UVic, Canada

Setting of sonnets from Petrarch's Rime Sparse for 6-part a capella voices SSATBarB.

Note : Sixth Book of Madrigals

Sixth Book of Madrigals

The first five of these Petrarch settings were commissioned by The Song Company and the Adelaide International Festival for performance during the time of Gavin's residency as part of the festival in March 2015. Gavin had enjoyed working with the group two years earlier in Canberra and took the opportunity to work with them again - performing these new pieces as well as existing madrigals and laude.

Five further madrigals are planned to complete the book. The full set of ten poems (of which the first five were performed in Adelaide) are the following:

1. 1. "Voi ch'ascoltate in rime sparse"

2. 2 "Per fare una leggiadra sua vendetta"

3. 3 "Era il giorno ch'al sol si scoloraro"

4. 17 "Piovonmi amare lagrime dal viso"

5. 18 "Quand' io son tutto volto in quella parte"

6. 246 "L'aura che 'l verde lauro et l'aureo crine"

7. 249 "Qhal paura ò quando mi torna a mente"

8. 251 "O m isera et orribil visione!"

9. 255 La sera desiare, odiar l'aurora"

10. 259 "Cercato ò sempre solitaria vita" 



Duration: 10’
Instrumentation: 2 pianos,( version made only for recording)

Text: St Brendan
Choir (SATB), violin, organ
Duration c. 8'
First performance: Oakham School Choir, conductor Peter Davis, Martin Cropper, violin, Ivan Linford, organ.
Oakham School Chapel, May 24 2009

Note : Saint Brendan arrives at the Promised Land of the Saints

Saint Brendan arrives at the Promised Land of the Saints

Hear us God, our saviour, our hope throughout all the boundaries of the earth and in the distant sea.

Happy are they that live in your house. They shall praise you from generation to generation.

There before you lies the land which you have sought for a long time. You could not find it immediately because God wanted to show you his varied secrets in the great ocean.

Return, then, to the land of your birth, bringing with you some of the fruit of this land and as many of the precious stones as your boat can carry. The final day of your pilgrimage draws near so that you may sleep with your fathers.

After the passage of many times this land will become known to your successors, when persecution of the Christians shall have come. The river that you see divides the island. Just as this land appears to you ripe with fruit, so shall it remain always without and shadow of night. For its light is Christ.

Hear us God, our saviour, our hope throughout all the boundaries of the earth and in the distant sea.

Duration: 23’
Dedicated to Hazel Davies (1931-85).
Commissioned by the Vienna Festival for the Arditti Quartet.
First performance: Messe Palatz, Vienna, 8 October 1985.

Note : String Quartet no.1

String Quartet no.1

("Between the National and the Bristol")

The first string quartet was commissioned by the Vienna Festival for the Arditti Quartet to perform in October 1985. Until then I had never considered writing a quartet partly because, although a string player myself, as a bassist I found myself outside the quasi-privacy of such an ensemble. However, as a way of ingratiating myself into this closed world I introduced aspects of the double bass into the piece. The passage with cello and viola playing heavily in octaves in the bottom register, for example, simulates the sound of the bass, and extended solos in natural harmonics, such as those in the coda, are part of the bass's technique. In fact a great deal of the music is in the high register, most notably towards the end where each instrument de-tunes a pair of strings and thereafter plays only in harmonics, both natural and artificial.  The first violin and viola tune their top two strings down a semitone, and the second violin and cello tune their bottom two strings down a semitone. The original idea was that  natural harmonics would be played on the "artificial" (i.e. de-tuned) strings and artificial harmonics on the "natural" strings.

My knowledge of the players in the Arditti Quartet of that period informed some aspects of the writing in a slightly capricious way. For example, I was least familiar with the playing of Levine Andrade and so I made sure that he, the violist, had the most interesting part at the opening, and several solos throughout. Irvine Arditti's reputation as a phenomenal sight-reader led me to have the first violin's part on the first page of the score almost entirely in open G string semibreves. The first moment of 'romantic' warmth was given to Alex Balanescu, at that time second violin in the quartet, and Rohan de Saram's cello was placed in a very high register for the first few minutes.

When I started to write the piece, my initial idea had been to write a quartet in which each instrument would relate to a composer associated with it as a player, the whole quartet serving as a kind of imaginary séance bringing them together. In this scenario the composers were Ysayë, Vieuxtemps, Hindemith (or Kupkovic), and Schönberg. In the event, due to the need to accelerate delivery of the score to coincide with the Arditti's passing through Heathrow, there was only time to allude to Ysayë, as composer, violinist, quartet leader and to his connection with Busoni - his occasional accompanist and butt of one of Ysayë's best practical jokes, in the Queen's Hotel Birmingham.

The Quartet's subtitle brings together another reference to a hotel and to Vienna. During the time that I was working with Robert Wilson on The CIVIL WarS I undertook research into the life of Mata Hari in order to find text for an aria. One night in 1906, unknown to each of them, the three most famous dancers of the period were staying in Vienna. Maud Allan was at the National, Mata Hari was at the Hotel Bristol, and Isadora Duncan, another reference within the quartet, was staying in a hotel "somewhere between the National and the Bristol".

The piece is dedicated to my sister, Hazel Davies, who died during the time I was revising the piece and, at the suggestion of Alex Balanescu, adding a few bars to the already difficult coda.

Gavin Bryars