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Gavin Bryars (b.1943): Nothing Like The Sun, Sonnets Set to Music / Gavin Bryars Ensemble

Notes & Reviews:

There is a long and honorable history of the sonnet being set to music, starting with composers in the Italian Renaissance and continuing through to the present day. For a composer to set a sonnet, or series of sonnets, almost inevitably and unnervingly, means writing within a historical perspective- as it does with writing operas, string quartets or symphonies. The form itself, though, is particularly satisfying to work with because of its sense of balance and its elegant and apparently simple formal structure. In writing sonnets the poet generally speaks in first person, which draws the reader deep into their world. For a composer this has the huge advantage of giving a very direct emotional link to the poet. In 2007, Gavin Bryars was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and Opera North to set a group of Shakespeare's sonnets to music, having by then produced four books of madrigals. Shakespeare's sonnets are full of wonderful technical subtlety and the form of the sonners allowed him to arrive at a shape for the musical setting. Gavin Bryars' first musical reputation was as a jazz bassist working in the early sixties with improvisers Derek Bailey and Tony Oxley. He worked for a time in the United States with John Cage, and collaborated with composers Cornelius Cardew and John White. The Gavin Bryars Ensemble was founded in 1981 and performs internationally to this day.



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