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Ayres studied composition, electronic music, and trombone. He moved to Den Haag to study with Louis Andriessen on the postgraduate composition course at the Royal Conservatoire. He settled in Holland permanently and since2006 has taught at the Amsterdam Conservatoire. Ayres’ postmodern style is eceletic, comic and theatrical.
When asked what inspires his writing he replied ‘... consonance, dissonance, melody, texture, elephants, clouds, snowballs, anything, from any time andwhenever it is needed – bound only by the borders of my limited imagination’!
Ayres has won many awards, including the International Gaudeamus Prize for composition in 1994 during the Gaudeamus Music week and the Vermeulen Prize in 2003, the highest award for composition in the Netherlands.
This disc features two of Richard Ayres’ ongoing series of ‘NONcerti’ – a form he has invented which, he explains, is both an ‘un-concerto’ and an ‘uncertain concerto’. Rather than the traditional virtuoso soloist ‘battling’ with an orchestra, he explores ideas of collaboration, failure, imperfection and mortality, but expressed in a riot of melody, quotations and invented sounds.
His works often tell or illustrate a story, as the track-titles show, below: in No. 36 the solo horn player runs up and down ramps as part of its Alpine scenario, while No.37b, although not a NONcerto by name, draws on the same narrative ideas. Based in Ayres’s Cornish-Swiss fantasy world the later stages of the first movement sees the two percussionists try some carpentry, one with a saw, the other with a hammer, as if they are trying to nail the piece together.
Richard Ayres: No. 37b
I. Alfred Wallis (in paradise) observes Saint Joseph (the carpenter) at work and at leisure
II. Sjonnie Kurzak (a broken soul) ascends
III. … but when Gippy Dixon opened his eyes, the procession was still continuing …
Richard Ayres: No. 36, "NONcerto for Horn"
I. Valentine Tregashian dreams … of the Swiss Girl
II. Valentine Tregashian dreams … of Jan Snaegl and the Pearly Gates
III. Anna Filipiova goes on a journey: Anna Filipiova has disappeared
III. Anna Filipiova goes on a journey: a cloud machine casts shadows across the landscape
III. Anna Filipiova goes on a journey: Anna Filipiova sees her mother and old friends in the distance
III. Anna Filipiova goes on a journey: Anna Filipiova is joined by her grandmother
III. Anna Filipiova goes on a journey: they all move slowly towards a bright light
III. Anna Filipiova goes on a journey: as they approach Anna Filipiova feels warmth on her face
III. Anna Filipiova goes on a journey: they all stop and drink tea
III. Anna Filipiova goes on a journey: they dance gaily
III. Anna Filipiova goes on a journey: one by one her friends take their leave
III. Anna Filipiova goes on a journey: Anna Filipiova feels peaceful, her surroundings slowly begin to fade away …
III. Anna Filipiova goes on a journey: … and gently disappear
Richard Ayres: No. 31, "NONcerto for Trumpet"
I. Burlesque (with long scale)
II. Elegy for Alfred Schnittke
“Would that all musical postmodernism were as intriguing and provocative as this!”
“Ayres's approach appears to reflect Mahler's wish to include everything, but in its episodic spirit Ayres's music comes across as Janacek for the 21st century and, like both composers, it is richly exhilarating...Trumpeter Marco Blaauw and horn-player Wim Timmermans are excellent soloists”