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Bryars: Farewell To Philosophy / Lloyd-Webber, Haden, Nexus

Release Date: 04/15/1997 
Label:  Point Music   Catalog #: 454126   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gavin Bryars
Performer:  Julian Lloyd WebberBob BeckerWilliam CahnRobin Engelman,   ... 
Conductor:  James Judd
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber OrchestraNexus (Ensemble)
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 15 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Were our Editor to commission a “What next?” sequence after Sibelius’s Swan of Tuonela, Gavin Bryars’s 1995 Cello Concerto (or Farewell to Philosophy, to quote its Haydn-inspired subtitle) could quite easily head the list. Both pieces emerge from among shadows, the Bryars including harp and low percussion, its solo line climbing sadly and patiently until the long first section (there are seven sections in all that play without a break) takes its leave among Parsifal-style string figurations. Section two is more animated, at least initially (timpani set the scene), until the mood darkens again (at around 4'21''); the third prompts violins, solo cello arpeggios and a tar-black bass clarinet; the fourth features especially intense solo work; Read more the fifth recalls the orchestration of Haydn’s Philosopher Symphony (“pairs of English and French horns playing alternating legato phrases, muted violins and unmuted lower strings accompanying with staccato quavers”) and the sixth, blurring dissonances and a softly chiming bell (echoes of Hovhaness?). The Farewell connection, again after Haydn, greets the tender final section with its progressive reduction of forces. This, for me, is the loveliest moment in the work, a haunting twentieth-century parallel to the various fin de siecle swansongs of Franz Liszt (I’m thinking in particular of the Wagner memorials and other late pieces).

The booklet tells us that the Farewell to Philosophy was “commissioned by Philips Classics for Julian Lloyd Webber and is dedicated to him”. Lloyd Webber’s tone seems to me perfectly suited to the job, being full-bodied and expressive but relaxed enough to blend with the components of a predominantly dark accompaniment. One Last Bar, Then Joe Can Sing (1994) was an Arts Council commission for the percussion quintet Nexus and, to quote Bryars himself, “is a reflexion on aspects of percussion history, both personal and musical”. The work’s opening takes as its starting-point the last bar at the end of the first part of Bryars’s opera Medea, then calls on varieties of tuned percussion (the glow of marimbas in contrast to the glitter of high bells), prompts some haunting modulations and fades to a tranquil coda.

Quite aside from Nexus’s executive expertise and a mass of fascinating textural invention, One Last Bar … marks a high-point in sound recording. The sessions, which date from last June, were held in the Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music in the USA and report an astonishing range of sounds – from marimbas and sticks on metal to bowed crotales and songbells. The other works were recorded a few months later in London at Abbey Road and are hardly less impressive. By the Vaar (a river in Flanders and the scene of another Bryars opera) was written for – and is performed by – jazz bass-player Charlie Haden, whose specific sound (he uses gut strings) inspired a husky, mellow “extended adagio”. Much of the solo work is played pizzicato which of course underlines the jazz element, while bass clarinet, percussion and strings set up a warming backdrop. It’s a nice piece, but the Cello Concerto is rather more than that, and One Last Bar, Then Joe Can Sing, more still.

-- Gramophone [11/1996]
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Cello "Farewell to Philosophy" by Gavin Bryars
Performer:  Julian Lloyd Webber (Cello)
Conductor:  James Judd
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1995; England 
Date of Recording: 11/1995 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London 
Length: 34 Minutes 58 Secs. 
One Last Bar, Then Joe Can Sing by Gavin Bryars
Performer:  Bob Becker (Percussion), William Cahn (Percussion), Robin Engelman (Percussion),
Russ Hartenberger (Percussion), John Harvey Wyre (Percussion)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Nexus (Ensemble)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1994; England 
Date of Recording: 05/1995 
Venue:  Eastman School of Music, Rochester, NY 
Length: 18 Minutes 58 Secs. 
By the Vaar by Gavin Bryars
Performer:  Charlie Haden (Double Bass)
Conductor:  James Judd
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1987; England 
Date of Recording: 11/1995 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London 
Length: 20 Minutes 52 Secs. 

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