Author Topic: Gavin Bryars  (Read 7650 times)

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Drasko

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Gavin Bryars
« on: June 09, 2011, 02:03:40 AM »
Born in Yorkshire, England, Richard Gavin Bryars (b. January 16, 1943) is a composer and double bass player. He attended the University of Sheffield before traveling to the U.S. and studying with John Cage. He is associated with the so-called New York School, and the influence of Morton Feldman, Earle Brown and Minimalist movement is evident in his early works such as The Sinking of the Titanic (1969) and Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet (1971).

Later pieces of note include After the Requiem (1990), A Man In A Room, Gambling (1992), and the cello concerto Farewell to Philosophy (1995) premiered by Julian Lloyd Webber. Bryars has worked in a large number of forms, including opera, string quartets and concertos. He has also created dance music and participated in mutlitmedia projects as both a performer and a composer.


from classicalnet

http://www.gavinbryars.com/


I, a big 20+ Bryars CD fan

I, a small 2 CD Bryars fan. What would you recommend as 3rd and possibly 4th. What I have is After the Requiem and Three Viennese Dancers, both on ECM.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2011, 12:11:39 AM by Drasko »

Offline Luke

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Re: Gavin Bryars
« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2011, 02:45:11 AM »
The strange thing is, I am a big fan in that I buy EVERYTHING (and now that the GB label is cranking them out, 'everything' is getting to be quite a lot), but I actually find him a very frustrating composer. The first piece I ever heard was After the Requiem and it utterly floored me. Nothing since then has matched it, and of course there is a sameness about what he writes which I imagine would annoy many listeners a great deal. Sounds damning, all that, but  there is something about his music which draws me back every single time. As far as discs go, starting (perversely) with the two you already have


The After the Requiem disc you have is and probably will always be my prime recommendation. Not just for the title piece but for at least two of the other three. The Old Tower of Lobenicht is the sort of medium-sized ensemble piece Bryars has written many times, but never better or more movingly than this


This highlight here is the 1st quartet, played by the Arditti. If you like that - and I think it's a wonderful piece, myself, you could get the following two discs:


This one contains Quartets 1 and 2, plus a nice piece for two violins. Quartet 2 has that rare thing, some fast music from Bryars. I like this piece a lot. Or else there is


This one contains quartets 1, 2 and 3. Even though it's the only one I have the score for (and that usually helps me identify with a piece more easily) no 3 is my least favourite of the Quartets. It's more of the same but without any really standout sections, for my money. Interesting Bryars-y coincidence - second violinist on the Arditti recording of the 1st quartet is the leader of Balanescu recording of the 1st and 2nd; and the second violinist on the Balanescu recording is the leader on the Lyric recording of the 1st 2nd and 3rd  ;D


The Bryars Cello Concerto is, IMO, the most succesful of his orchestral works (there are two double bass concerti, one of them on this disc, and a piano concerto, a violin concerto with string orchestra and some other pieces, all available). It's really a beautiful piece (of course, they are all beautiful, Bryars' pieces) and in a way, if you listen to it as an exercise in how to sustain a line, how to vary these dark, soft shades, it's a hypnotic work, and very successful. The double bass concerto coupling is harder work, maybe; the piece for percussion ensembler (NEXUS), though, is magnificent. If you like it there is another disc...


which contains all of his pieces for percussion ensemble. Sounds limited, perhaps, but its quite spectacular in its quiet way. This is one of the newer GB discs, and it's lovely.


If you like the idea of a Bryars soundtrack to speech, then these two discs are just perfect (I think this is almost the perfect medium for Bryars, myself). The Berger/Christie disc is very thought-provoking; the Munoz one is such a terrific conceit, and it works brilliantly IMO. There is another disc on Point which has excertps from the Munoz, along with a few other pieces. If you don't want to go the whole Munoz hog then that might be a better one, but personallyI prefer the disc pictured.


This disc contains the Requiem on which After the Requiem is a meditation. The Hilliard Ensemble and Fretwork - quite a line-up, and it sounds magnificent. undoubtedly one of the best introductions to Bryars that there is, and the couplings, particularly the Adnan Songbook, are equally fine.


Amongst other things this, the third ECM Bryars disc, contains two sublime vocal works - Glorious Hill (the Hiliards again) and Incipit Vita Nova, for countertenor and string trio. That piece would make my shortlist of Bryars best 5 works, I think


This GB disc is indispensible....but not for the Bryars. It contains the best performance I know of Silvestrov's Testament, an utterly sublime piece of music. During rehearsals for the recording Bryars heard the choir sing the Silvestrov and thought it was 'the most beautiful music I'd ever heard' so he asked for them to sing it on his CD.


Only one Brayrs piece on here, but it's one of my favourites, The Black River, a Verne setting for soprano and organ


Again only one Bryars piece, but again a good one - the thee Elegies for Nine Clarinets (here Roger Heaton overdubbing himself). A disc Karl might enjoy, I think

Finally (and bear in mind that I don't know any Bryars disc which is less than beautiful, but I am trying limit myself to ones that really stand out - honestly!) these two recordings from GB:


Bryars has written (and is still writing, I assume) a large series of Laude now, and this collection forms the heart of them. Friman's wonderful voice is heard on all tracks, Potter is on some, there is typical Bryars-style instrumental support on most. It's a lovely, intense disc.


Something different, this is Bryars; piano trio arrangement of Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty - more interventionist than an arrangement but less than a paraphrase, there are some gorgeous moments of twentieth century irony and unease here, whilst Tchaikovsky's orginal remains essentially the same. A most subtle disc, with a couple of beautiful pieces from David Lang rounding it out.

« Last Edit: June 09, 2011, 02:47:38 AM by Luke »

Drasko

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Re: Gavin Bryars
« Reply #2 on: June 09, 2011, 03:18:23 AM »
Wow, Thanks! That's almost too much information. The vocal stuff sounds like something I'd like to explore next. Oi me Lasso disc is what I'm instantly drawn to, and those two Hilliard (Requiem and Vita Nova), but the percussions are also tempting, and the concept of the narration ones is at least intriguing. I'll have to do some youtubing now.
What's your opinion on his Madrigals? That's something that strikes me as very interesting as well.

Offline Luke

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Re: Gavin Bryars
« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2011, 03:29:59 AM »
I find his Madrigals somewhat less convincing - though I love the idea of a contemporary composer writing books of madrigals, too. There are quite a few available, scattered around a few discs, and one GB disc dedicated to them alone. I think my problem with them is simply that I don't find them that striking - they are just 'more Bryars'. The earlier piece Glorious Hill (on that Vita Nova ECM disc and others too) has a great concentration of purpose, focused ideas and is all round very successful, IMO, but these later pieces don't quite have those qualities to my ears (I think I will listen again later today, though). In fact, I suppose all my very favourite Bryars tends to come from that broad period, the late 80s- late 90s, just as all my favourite Part comes from the mid-late 70s to the early 90s. There might be similar reasons for this, too...

Offline Luke

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Re: Gavin Bryars
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2011, 03:35:31 AM »
One more disc you might like to consider, if the vocal things are appealing to you - again on GB records, the Lockerbie Memorial Concert, with the Cadman Requiem again (Fretwork/Hilliards again) in the context for which it was written (Bill Cadman was Bryars' soundman, killed in the Lockerbie bombing). The CD is a live recording of the 10th Anniversary Memorial in Westminster Cathedral, and it contains some of those Madrigals, the Requiem, Incipit Vita Nova (the work I described as one of my very favourites of Bryars') and also the Hilliards and Fretwork in some early music - Busnois, Purcell, Gombert, Jenkins.



Amazon write-up:

Quote
Gavin Bryars was deeply affected by the death of his friend and sound engineer Bill Cadman, killed in the Lockerbie tragedy, aged only 32. Gavin felt compelled to write a work - Cadman Requiem - in Bill's memory. This forms the final work in this live recording, from a free concert for the tenth anniversary of the tragedy, given in Westminster Cathedral, in memory of all 270 people who died. A very large audience, including relatives of the victims, attended the moving occasion.
The programme, devised by Bryars with the help of John Potter (Hilliard Ensemble) and Richard Campbell (Fretwork), consists of works he had written for both the Hilliard Ensemble and Fretwork along with pieces of early music (Busnois, Gombert, Purcell, Jenkins). This was the first time that the Hilliard Ensemble and Fretwork had performed together in a live concert.

Two of the works were written almost simultaneously in 1989. These were Cadman Requiem and Incipit Vita Nova to celebrate the birth of the first child (Vita) of two of Bryars' friends, here in special arrangements of these two works with viol consort. Also given their first performances were a group of madrigals, setting poems by Bryars' librettist Blake Morrison, which were written especially for this occasion, commissioned by the Cadman family.

Personnel:
Hilliard Ensemble: David James (alto), Steven Harrold, John Potter (tenor), Gordon Jones (baritone)

Fretwork: Richard Campbell, Wendy Gillespie (treble viols), Julia Hodgson, Susanna Pell (tenor viols), Richard Boothby (bass viol), William Hunt (bass viol, great bass)
« Last Edit: June 09, 2011, 03:37:15 AM by Luke »

Drasko

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Re: Gavin Bryars
« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2011, 03:44:55 AM »
Yes, I think I understand. Like Part's Bryars music can be honed only to a certain point and then either repeats itself or has to be reinvented into something that no longer is what it used to be.
Ok, Vita Nova, Cadman Requiem and Oi Me Lasso go to my wishlist.

One more disc you might like to consider, if the vocal things are appealing to you - again on GB records, the Lockerbie Memorial Concert, with the Cadman Requiem again (Fretwork/Hilliards again) in the context for which it was written (Bill Cadman was Bryars' soundman, killed in the Lockerbie bombing). The CD is a live recording of the 10th Anniversary Memorial in Westminster Cathedral, and it contains some of those Madrigals, the Requiem, Incipit Vita Nova (the work I described as one of my very favourites of Bryars') and also the Hilliards and Fretwork in some early music - Busnois, Purcell, Gombert, Jenkins.

This sounds like exactly what I'm looking for.

edit:grammar
« Last Edit: June 09, 2011, 09:33:25 AM by Drasko »

Offline Luke

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Re: Gavin Bryars
« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2011, 03:46:55 AM »
Yes, I think I understand. Like Part's Bryars music that can be honed only to a certain point and then either repeats itself or has to be reinvented into something that no longer is what it used to be.

Yes, that's it exactly. Very well put.

Offline Luke

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Re: Gavin Bryars
« Reply #7 on: June 09, 2011, 07:45:13 AM »
 ;D

Indeed. The Bryars discussion began there, though, and if it ended with a discussion of how Arvo Part went downhill in the early 90s, that's clearly because his Miserere (a great piece, but where the rot set it  ;) ) contains a bass guitar. See - not OT at all  ;D
« Last Edit: June 09, 2011, 07:46:55 AM by Luke »

karlhenning

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Re: Gavin Bryars
« Reply #8 on: June 09, 2011, 08:20:40 AM »
. . . (a great piece, but where the rot set in  ;) ) . . . .

(* chortle *)

Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Gavin Bryars
« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2011, 11:54:27 PM »
Anyone want to opine on Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet? I figure a work that gets such extreme reactions might be worth hearing.
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Offline Luke

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Re: Gavin Bryars
« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2011, 03:04:43 AM »
I love it, and I find it an interesting work. But it and the other earlier pieces (pre-Medea) are more widely at odds with the later Bryars even more than pre- and post-tintinabuli Part (for instance). The later works have The Bryars Sound writ through every single note, for better or worse. The earlier, conceptual works are equally imbued with his pataphysically-minded spirit, but the sounds themselves vary wildly, from performance to performance (e.g. the Obscure recording of 1, 2, 1,2 ,3 4 is exquisitely seductive; the same work could equally be horrific). Jesus Blood, however, always sounds the same, and it is a beautiful sound. The music bears the repetition, for me, anyway, and that is saying something. However, I never 'got' the later extended remixes (with Tom Waits and so on). The piece in its pure form is enough for me.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2011, 04:06:19 AM by Luke »

Drasko

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Re: Gavin Bryars
« Reply #11 on: June 13, 2011, 03:48:22 AM »
Incipit Vita Nova might be my new favorite Bryars piece. It's immensely beautiful, and when that string motive emerged around three and a half minutes in, just after Bella mihi, video, bella parantur (six notes, I think? repeated four times) I thought - wow, just can't get more perfect than this!

Offline Luke

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Re: Gavin Bryars
« Reply #12 on: June 13, 2011, 03:59:57 AM »
It is a really exquisite piece, that one, isn't it? Was that in the string trio or the viol version? I don't know if I am imagining the fact that those late 80s/early 90s pieces of Bryars - this one, the Cadman Requiem and its offshoot After the Requiem, The Old Tower of Lobenicht, a few other pieces - are really the high point of his writing? He's written a great deal, there's masses of variety, and his projects have become more ambitious - but these pieces, simply, have an inner tension holding them together that can make them spellbinding. This is certainly one of them, it's long been a favourite of mine.

Drasko

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Re: Gavin Bryars
« Reply #13 on: June 13, 2011, 04:11:13 AM »
It's a string trio version on ECM. I don't have enough familiarity with his works across career to be able to prefer periods but After the Requiem and The Old Tower of Lobenicht are indeed terrific pieces.

Offline Luke

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Re: Gavin Bryars
« Reply #14 on: June 13, 2011, 04:51:20 AM »
There are so many vocal pieces by Bryars - surely it's his main medium, nowadays, what with the series of Madrigals and Laude and so many other songs, operas, choral piece. But to single out one other which, to me, stands out and might be put alongside Incipit Vita Nova...maybe I'd (re) suggest The Black River, a Verne setting for soprano and organ on that ECM disc with Sarah Leonard/Christopher Bowers-Broadbent. It's a long, meandering setting of a description of marine life from 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, and it's perfect for Bryars' style, the long list of animals becomes ecstatic in itself, and the organ accompaniment rich and alien. All Bryars is echt-Bryars, in a way, but this more so than most, perhaps.

karlhenning

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Re: Gavin Bryars
« Reply #15 on: June 13, 2011, 05:03:15 AM »
There's a Bryars piece on this Icebreaker CD; may well be the first GB piece I shall ever have heard . . . .

Drasko

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Re: Gavin Bryars
« Reply #16 on: June 13, 2011, 05:38:19 AM »
The Black River, a Verne setting for soprano and organ on that ECM disc with Sarah Leonard/Christopher Bowers-Broadbent. It's a long, meandering setting of a description of marine life from 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, and it's perfect for Bryars' style, the long list of animals becomes ecstatic in itself, and the organ accompaniment rich and alien.

I love lists of all kinds, so this definitely can be something I'd like. And speaking of lists and marine life, this springs to mind (my mind, can't be sure of others):

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/n7wPsguEDDg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/n7wPsguEDDg</a>

 8)

Offline UB

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Re: Gavin Bryars
« Reply #17 on: June 13, 2011, 07:54:58 AM »
Hi Luke...what do you think of "I send you this cadmium red?" It is the one album I do not have and I can not remember hearing anything from it.

I must confess that I am a big fan of Bryar's music and have been ever since I bought an LP of his music many, many years ago. My favorite piece will probably always be his cello concerto 'Farewell to Philosophy.' However I have little of his work that I did not enjoy. I do struggle with 'From Egil's Saga' but I have yet to get rid of it.
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karlhenning

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Re: Gavin Bryars
« Reply #18 on: June 13, 2011, 07:59:48 AM »
There's a Bryars piece on this Icebreaker CD; may well be the first GB piece I shall ever have heard . . . .

The Archangel Trip.

Offline Luke

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Re: Gavin Bryars
« Reply #19 on: June 13, 2011, 09:32:47 AM »
Hi Luke...what do you think of "I send you this cadmium red?" It is the one album I do not have and I can not remember hearing anything from it.

I must confess that I am a big fan of Bryar's music and have been ever since I bought an LP of his music many, many years ago. My favorite piece will probably always be his cello concerto 'Farewell to Philosophy.' However I have little of his work that I did not enjoy. I do struggle with 'From Egil's Saga' but I have yet to get rid of it.

Hi Bill - how nice to see you!

I like 'I send you this cadmium red' a great deal, it's high quality Bryars. I presume you know the background. John Christie and John Berger began a correspondence around the subject of 'colour' in the hope that it might lead to something fruitful. The gist was that they would send each other a sample of some particular colour and then write lyrically or poetically or philosophically 'about' that colour, or thoughts springing from the contemplation of the colour. The result was published in a deluxe book - here at amazon. At a later point Bryars joined the project and wrote a sequence of subdued pieces to be played underneath readings from the book. They are similar to the music that accompanies A Man in a Room, Gambling, in that they drift along unhurriedly and seemingly in little relation to the text until suddenly, at some point, the music deftly turns on a pin and comes into revealing dialogue with the text. (That is one of the things that make AMIARG such a pleasurable listening experience). The ensemble is constituted differently, the two Johns do not have Munoz's mercurial tones, and there is less of that devilish humour of AMIARG, but certainly if you know one you can imagine the other.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2011, 09:35:18 AM by Luke »