New York is the first album to feature the complete percussion ensemble works by Gavin Bryars – performed by the stunning French ensemble Les Percussions Claviers de Lyon in a recording supervised personally by the composer. For Bryars the family of keyboard percussion is as important as the string family and a great percussion ensemble, like the group from Lyon heard here, are as musically subtle and expressive as a well-seasoned string quartet.
From the mid-1970s onwards he has maintained a passionate commitment to this instrumental formation and his first opera Medea (1984) included a quintet of tuned percussion in the orchestra, replacing the more conventional violins. The five percussionists in Medea became Les Percussions Claviers de Lyon and Gavin Bryars still has a close relation with the group.
This recording includes One Lat Bar Then Joe Can Sing, the piece that Bryars wrote for the great Canadian group Nexus - a work that has entered the percussion repertoire worldwide. The other pieces were commissioned for Les Percussions Claviers de Lyon and exploit the wide range of colours and textures that this unique combination of instruments affords - two vibraphones, two marimbas, bass marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel and assorted cymbals, tom-toms and other drums. At Portage and Main is the most recent piece, premiered in 2009, and the title work, New York (2004), is a concerto for tuned percussion quintet in which the group is joined by the French chamber orchestra L'Ensemble de Basse-Normandie.
It is repertoire that is programmed regularly for live performance by Les Percussions Claviers de Lyon as a major part of their repertoire in France and elsewhere in Europe, as well as world tours including China and North America. UK performances are under discussion.
14th October 2010
“[One Last Bar...] is a brief musical fragment that gradually loses its shape and is progressively filled out by an ever-changing array of mostly tuned percussion. Both it and At Portage & Main... are delicately coloured, gently dappled works.”
22nd October 2010
“One Last Bar Then Joe Can Sing (1994) uses bowed vibes and crotales alongside struck tones to create a forest of sound, while New York (2004) incorporates a small chamber orchestra of winds and strings with the percussion, adding undulating textures akin to the 1970s work of Steve Reich.”
“Bryars's synthesis of system and sentimentality is aimed at unlocking the expressive potential of the percussion ensemble, and his use of restlessly repetitive figures, fragile harmonic shifts and gently floating lines results in vivid minimalist soundscapes.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.