April 20, 2011

ALONG FOR THE RIDE:

What's New: Gavin Bryars' Gently Undulating Piano Concerto (Tom Huizenga, 4/19/11, NPR)

Bryars' newly released piano concerto is subtitled "The Solway Canal." It begins with undulating tones deep in the basses, from which low piano notes slowly emerge like the prow of a boat materializing out of early morning mist.

Being a Bryars composition, this is not a conventional piano concerto. Don't expect flashy cadenzas or roller coasters of double octaves. Instead, Bryars' piano is like some indifferent ship captain guiding the music through a calm canal. Along for the ride, a male chorus intones two evocative sonnets by one of Bryars' favorite poets, the Scotsman Edwin Morgan. The sound reminds me of the melancholy shipmen singing from the decks of Wagner's Flying Dutchman. Bryars himself admits that the addition of the chorus was a nod to another odd piano concerto — the one by Feruccio Busoni.

"The Solway Canal" is in a single uninterrupted movement, and though the tempo remains slow, the music has the feeling of constant motion. Rippling, repeating chords in the piano and oscillating figures in the strings give the piece its pulse, propelling the boat forward through water. The tranquil tone echoes the English pastoral school, sounding not too far off from pieces like Vaughan Williams' Flos Campi or Delius' A Song of the High Hills.


AUDIO

MORE:
Never Failed Me Yet (WQXR)

The tape piece, Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet, won English composer Gavin Bryars an international success when it was re-released in the 1990s. However, the depth and emotional potency of the works of this improvisatory jazz bassist turned composer still remain relatively under-appreciated in the United States. Q2 aims to throw back the curtain on this titan of contemporary music.

Q2 is proud to launch Never Failed Me Yet: a weeklong celebration of the music of English composer Gavin Bryars. The festival begins Thursday, April 14 with a live audio Webcast from New York City's Guggenheim Museum of Bryars's 1969 masterpiece The Sinking of the Titanic, as performed by the Wordless Music Orchestra.

Listen in April 14-20 for live concert recordings, diverse daily focuses, performance and interview videos and introductions by Bryars himself to over 40 of his evocative and paradigm-shifting pieces.


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Posted by at April 20, 2011 5:55 AM
  

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