Crash Ensemble and Chamber Choir Ireland have released an album of works by contemporary Irish composer Gerald Barry.
Barry Meets Beethoven, Music by Gerald Barry is available ion Orchid Classics from record stores and online.
Conducted by Paul Hillier, the album features the premiere recordings of two major works that dramatise key episodes in the life of Ludwig van Beethoven. The first of these, called simply Beethoven, sets that composer’s emotional epistle to his "Immortal Beloved” in a series of precisely depicted musical scenarios. The role of Beethoven is sung by the bass, Stephen Richardson, accompanied by Crash Ensemble.
The companion Beethoven piece, Schott & Sons, Mainz, also uses the composer's letters, but this time detailing the business dealings with his publishers concerning the Ninth Symphony. Beethoven is again represented by the same bass soloist, but now with chorus instead of instruments as his backing group, exploring a wide range of virtuoso choral techniques. Both pieces demonstrate Beethoven's force of character, as well as his deepest thoughts, emotions and beliefs.
Featuring Crash Ensemble alone - First Sorrow, a string quartet in which the players also sing, is inspired by Kafka's discriminating short story about a hypersensitive trapeze artist.
The recording also offers a selection of unaccompanied choral pieces performed by Chamber Choir Ireland. O Lord, how vain is a psalm-setting, with delicate dissonances and whistled ritornellos; The Coming of Winter features a 9th-century Irish poem, heard both forwards and backwards; while Long Time gives us the opening of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, in a helter-skelter of C major scales, both up and down.
Gerald Barry’s musical personality is not entirely unlike Beethoven's: sure of itself, demanding of its interpreters, difficult to perform, riddled with ecstatic complexities and unexpected humours. His works have been performed by major orchestras and ensembles all over the world, while his recent opera, The Importance of Being Earnest, has confirmed him as a riveting voice of unique qualities.
Catalogue number ORC100055. UKPPD £9.00.
Gerald Barry was born in County Clare, Ireland in 1952, and studied with Stockhausen and Kagel. His early music from 1979 included "_______" for ensemble, of which Kagel wrote: ‘Gerald Barry is always sober, but might as well always be drunk. His piece "_______" is, on the contrary, not rectilineal, but “ ” ’. Also from 1979 is Ø for two pianos in which both pianos play identical music simultaneously.
His music has been recorded on the NMC, Black Box, Marco Polo, BVHaast and Discovery labels. Barry’s works have been commissioned and performed by major orchestras including City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Philharmonia Orchestra, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Los Angeles Philharmonic and Frankfurt Radio Symphony, and by ensembles like Britten Sinfonia, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.
Recent commissions include the Piano Concerto, written for Nicolas Hodges and premiered with Bayerischen Rundfunks under Peter Rundel in Munich’s Musica Viva series, and the CBSO under Thomas Adès. Subsequent performances were given by Avanti! Chamber Orchestra and RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, where Barry is Composer-in-Residence (2015-2018).
Barry is well-known for his five operas The Intelligence Park, first performed at the Almeida Festival, The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit, for the Aldeburgh Festival and Berliner Festwochen under Thomas Adès, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, staged at English National Opera and Theater Basel, La Plus Forte, a one-act opera commissioned by Radio France and premiered by Barbara Hannigan, and The Importance of Being Earnest, jointly commissioned by the LA Philharmonic and the Barbican in London with stagings at Opéra national de Lorraine, London's Royal Opera House, NI Opera and Lincoln Center. Earnest received a 2013 RPS Award for Large- Scale Composition and the recording, released on NMC, was nominated for a 2016 Grammy Award.
Upcoming works in 2016 include a new opera, Alice's Adventures Under Ground, Humiliated and Insulted for choir and orchestra, and The Destruction of Sodom for eight Horns and two Wind Machines.