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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Duration: c. 18’
Dedication: Paul Manley and the Primavera Chamber Orchestra
Instrumentation: solo violin, strings (minimum 6.5.4.4.2)
First Performance: Paul Manley and the Primavera Chamber Orchestra, De la Warr Pavillion, Bexhill on Sea, October 22 2000

Note : Violin Concerto ("The Bulls of Bashan") [2000]

Violin Concerto ("The Bulls of Bashan") [2000]

for violin and strings

The Violin Concerto, scored for solo violin and strings alone, was commissioned by the Primavera Chamber Orchestra for its leader Paul Manley and is the second piece that I have written for them.  The first, The Porazzi Fragment, for 21 solo strings, came about because of my admiration for the approach that the orchestra takes to performance - playing without a conductor, in effect as chamber musicians.  In the case of the concerto I did not want to write a virtuoso show-piece, but rather to draw on the orchestra's alertness as an ensemble.  The solo part is essentially lyrical and there is no cadenza as such.  But I was also conscious of the fact that, as with a baroque concerto, the soloist may also direct the work - and does so here.

Given the name of the orchestra and the fact that this is a violin concerto, there are a number of allusions to Vivaldi's Four Seasons.  There is also an extensive use of mutes, including  staggered transitions from muted to unmuted and vice versa, like a cross-fade in recording.  This use of mutes brought about the subtitle, which comes from an aside by Cecil Forsythe in his book on orchestration in which he pours scorn on the noise which string players would make when attaching mutes to their instruments (he was writing in 1914). Here is the passage in full.

"Unhappily the mutes remain something of a problem on the mechanical side of concert-room organisation.  When they are required the noise and fuss is most distressing, and, as these moments always occur when a pp is approaching, the musical attention of the audience is completely distracted. About fifty or sixty players all rattle their bows down on their desks in order to be free to search their waistcoat pockets.  When the mutes have been dragged out they are fitted to the bridges with a studied and elaborate caution which may be necessary to preserve the bridges from injury, but which gives an impression that the players are taking part in a solemn cabalistic rite.  And all this occurs in 1914 when inventors are as thick as bulls in Bashan."

The concerto is dedicated to Paul Manley and the Primavera Chamber Orchestra.



Duration c. 7’
Dedication: in memory of Adelaide Hall
Instrumentation: solo soprano voice; alto sax I, alto sax II (clar.), tenor sax I (clar.), tenor sax II (clar.), baritone sax; 4 French horns; flugelhorn,3 trumpets; 3 trombones, bass trombone; piano, bass, drums
First Performance: London Sinfonietta Big Band, Duke Ellington Memorial Concert, Queen Elziabeth Hall London, May 1st 1999

Note : When Harry Met Addie (1999)

When Harry Met Addie (1999)

for off-stage mezzo soprano and big band

The title of this piece contains two specific references: one to the singer Adelaide Hall and the other to baritone saxophonist Harry Carney.

I worked with Adelaide Hall on one memorable occasion in the Leicester Haymarket Studio Theatre in the late 1980's playing bass, arranging the music and directing a medium sized band composed of my students, some jazz colleagues from Leicester and featuring pianist Mick Pyne. Adelaide and I became good friends and I would visit her at her home in London whenever I could. She had, of course, been Duke Ellington's singer from 1927 onwards and was, in all probability, the first jazz singer to use 'scat' vocalisation, most famously in Creole Love Call. The legend is that Ellington was playing the piece through when Adelaide, in her dressing room, improvised a vocal line answering the theme played by a trio of clarinets. Whether this is true or not Ellington did incorporate this effect into the piece itself.

As my piece was commissioned for a concert curated by the baritone saxophonist/ bass clarinettist John Surman I thought to include also a reference to Harry Carney, Ellington's long serving (and long-suffering) baritone saxophonist whom I had seen perform with the Ellington band at Sheffield City Hall in the 1960's. There are brief quotations from Creole Love Call itself and the piece gradually becomes a (fully-notated) duet for the singer and the baritone which eventually merges into an improvised solo for alto saxophone. The voice and baritone are reunited in the closing bars.

When Harry Met Addie is dedicated to the memory of Adelaide Hall.

Gavin Bryars



Duration: 12’
Instrumentation: Percussion trio(cowbells, woodblocks, music box)
First performance: Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 1 February 1976.



Duration: 18’
Instrumentation (original version): 2 pianos.
First performance: Centrum Bellevue, Amsterdam (Holland Festival) 10 June 1977.
Instrumentation(“tour” version): 2 pianos, 3 players at one marimba, tuba.
First performance: Chapelle de la Sorbonne, Paris (Festival d'Automne),16 November 1979.

Note : White's SS (1977)

White's SS (1977)

White's S S is the first piece that I wrote originally as a two piano work. It was written for John White and myself to play in a weekend of minimal music at the Holland Festival in June 1977, although, in the event, Christopher Hobbs and I played it. The title is taken from something John White once said: "Systems and Sentimentality are the S S of my Reich". I am sure that he was aware of the the two meanings of the word "reich", certainly I was when I wrote it for such a context where all the major figures of minimal music of the period, with the exception of Steve Reich, were there.  The piece consists of a series of slow arpeggiated chords accompanying a slow tune, in tremoloed octaves in both pianos. There are subsequent versions with additional instruments, notably with John White adding a tuba to the bass part.

 

Note : White's SS (1977) for Crepuscule re-issue

White's SS (1977) for Crepuscule re-issue

The performers were Gavin Bryars and Christopher Hobbs, piano; John White, tuba. I cannot be certain exactly when and where it was recorded - it could have been in Scraptoft, near Leicester, where I ran a music department from 1978 (if it was after 1978).

It was written for a series of concerts at the Holland Festival in  1977 when they had a weekend of 'minimal music' which included people such as Terry Riley, LaMonte Young, Philip Glass, Louis Andriessen,  Pandit Pran Nath plus Chris Hobbs and myself as a duo. Chris and John had sort of fallen out at that time and so it was a question of which

of the two would play. So this was just for two pianos. The festival was arranged so that everyone played in three places, and everyone was able to hear everyone else's concert if they wished. The first performance was in Amsterdam, followed by Rotterdam and Utrecht. Later, when Chris and John were reconciled, we performed it in Brussels in a concert organised by Belgian Radio, for which Wim Mertens was the producer (he wasn't really composing then), at the Theatre du Bourse. Michel Duval and I had met earlier and he was later to start Crepuscule, a bit on the model of Eno's Obscure Records (the names of the labels have a similar resonance).

I made an ensemble version with two pianos, tuba and tuned percussion for my first concert in France - at the Chapelle de la Sorbonne as part of the Festival d'Automne in 1979. I also recorded the trio version in 1979 for a projected label of my own ("Mnemonic", the same name as my subsequent self publishing) though I never managed to release anything. I still have masters of my pieces plus others my John White, Dave Smith and Ben Mason. I don't think that this is the one on the CD, though it could be. This was recorded at a studio in Islington run by an American who I'd met in La Jolla in 1973 called Joe Julian.

The piece came about during a long period when I worked closely with John White, who I consider one of the great unsung masters of composition in England. He wrote a lot of so called 'systems' music from the late 60's through tot he early 80's and once said "Systems and Sentimentality are the SS of my Reich" - hence the title (and I relished the double entendre of "Reich").

In 1980 I did an album for Crepuscule ("Hommages") and about that time Michel Duval asked about including something on a kind of sampler cassette and I suggested White's SS.

The use of the tremolo in the slow right hand melody relates to my passion at that time for the music of Percy Grainger, something which John and I shared. Grainger wrote a piece which was part of a projected series called "Sentimentals"- though he only wrote Sentimentals 1 ("Colonial Song).

Gavin Bryars



Duration c. 5’
Dedication: Margaret Mills and Mashka Tchernakova
Instrumentation: cello and piano (commissioned for ABRSM “Spectrum” series)
First performance: Margaret Mills, cello, Gavin Bryars, piano, Coplow Centre Billesdon, December 29th 2001

Note : With Miriam by the river (2001)

With Miriam by the river (2001)

for cello and piano

This short piece was commissioned by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) for inclusion in its "Spectrum 4" volume of contemporary pieces for cello and piano. As a consequence both cello and piano parts are relatively easy to play. The title, and the slightly nostalgic mood, refers to my mother, Miriam, whose house overlooked the River Ouse in Yorkshire, and to those occasions when I would accompany her towards the end of her daily practice time.

The dedication is to my step-daughter (Mashka Tchernakova) and a friend in Billesdon (Margaret Mills), who meet regularly to play together in a similiar spirit and who first met when performing in the Millennium Music project ("Creation Hymn" 1999).



Duration c.58'
Instrumentation: Electric Guitar, viola, cello, bass (with pedals)
First Performance: Laurie Booth Dance Company, Gardner Arts Centre, Brighton, May 6 1994