Record of the day: Gavin Bryars, "Three String Quartets"

Record of the day: Gavin Bryars, “Three String Quartets”

Gavin Bryars
Three String Quartets (Cd Black Box BBM 1079)

“Nothing to move the wind vane, no breeze/just a dog along an avenue of silent trees/walking a man through a shower of leaves.”
The typically Anglo-Saxon sense of melancholy that emerges from these verses by Simon Armitage (taken from “Five Eleven Ninetynine”, trans. by Luca Guerneri) is perfect for describing the touching atmosphere present in this album, which collects the composer’s entire quartet English Gavin Bryars.
A clear unfolding of notes and colors, which does not use spectacular effects: deeply intimate, authentic internal dialogue.

Bryars is not afraid to use both styles from the past and performance techniques typical of avant-garde writing to achieve a result of great expressiveness that is always engaging. Listen to the stupendous finale of the First Quartet, based entirely on harmonics that create a sense of immaterial aerial suspension, or the melodic tension of the Third Quartet, certainly the most enjoyable of the series, with an immediate singability (even if obviously we find ourselves in a perfect British atmosphere, completely devoid of sentimentality).

Over the last twenty years, Bryars has become a very popular author even among the public who normally do not follow contemporary music thanks to the clarity of his writing and the communicativeness of his works, which, despite avoiding any easy wink, manage to hit the target while also avoiding useless impulses. rhetorical and focusing on giving intensity to each sentence. The experience gained alongside authors such as Cardew and Cage has given Bryars a strong awareness of his own musical craftsmanship, his music should be pointed out as an example to those authors who confuse accessibility with Sanremo melodic rambling or New Age.

Among these crystal soundscapes, composure does not exclude emotion but even when Bryars abandons his typical movements prone to slowness to attempt a more dynamic approach (as in the central part of the Second Quartet) there is never room for Dionysian intoxication of the unbridled pace; the composer’s intellectual control is iron, and the contrast between the incandescent singability of the material and the rationality that organizes it is one of the most fascinating characteristics of this music.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.