Caledonia – Barry Mills – Vol. 8 – CC6051
£9.99 – £23.99
Mills manages to marry these openings uninterruptedly with gorgeous orchestral colourings of Scottish folksongs.
“those looking for worthwhile music slightly to one side of most contemporary writing, eminently sane and sensibly composed by a genuine composer, would be well satisfied by investigating this new disc.”
Four Places in Tenerife (1998)
This piece is cast in one movement with five sections, each evoking a place in Tenerife. The first, “The Sea at El Sauzal”, begins with the sound of breaking waves heard from the cliffs above the sea, suggested by strokes on the tamtam alternating with rolls on the bass drum. Meandering melodic lines on wind instruments with accompanying sustained string chords then evoke the image of a wide expanse of sea, whilst the interplay of orchestral textures and colours reflects its constantly changing surface. A descending sequence of notes on unaccompanied harp ends this section and leads to “Las Rosquillas botanical gardens”, which opens with a pitchless bowing sound on the strings overlaid with two rolls on the maracas. This special effect on strings recreates the sound of a gentle breeze which throughout my visit here created rustling sounds, subtle movements of the vegetation and ever-changing patterns of dappled light. The portrayal of the gardens ends with a fast rising and falling pattern in the flute which is predominantly breath sound. Section 3 evokes “the Orotava valley” shrouded in mist. The sun being revealed as the mist dissolved is suggested by two chords rising and falling in volume, their appearance coloured by strokes on the tamtam and gong. A chord building up note by note on tremolo strings brings this section to a close. “Evening in Puerto de la Cruz” follows, evoking bustling crowds enjoying themselves in this lively city. Finally a coda, drawing on music from the depictions of the first three places, brings the piece to a close.
Caledonia (2018) was composed for Nathaniel Mander and is in three movements. Each movement opens with imagistic music, followed by arrangements of Scottish folk tunes.
1st movement: Ripples on the Surface of the Loch – Loch Aber no more – The Lass of Peaty’s Mill
2nd movement: Highland Rain – The yellow hair’d Laddie – Lord Aboyne’s Welcome
3rd movement: Moorland Mist – Throw the Wood Laddie – The Gaberlunzie Man – Ha ya seen ma Peggy?
Trumpet Concerto (2019). This concerto was composed for Imogen Whitehead and has five movements.
1st – Sea Moods: A calm opening is followed by a boisterous second section reflecting two very different moods of the sea.
2nd – I’ll love my Love: Imogen’s favourite instrument is the flugelhorn so I composed this movement especially for her. “I’ll love my Love” is a folk song which after a brief introduction is played on the flugelhorn. An embellished version of the melody follows on solo violin leading to a coda.
3rd – Windswept: This movement has a restless, unsettling quality.
4th – Evening (a homage to Miles Davis): The trumpet uses the harmon mute with stem removed through this section, which creates an introspective atmosphere. This sound colour was often employed by Miles Davis.
5th – Looking back: The last movement opens with tremolo chords on strings and two “birdsong-like” figures played in unison on the harp and trumpet with cup mute, evoking a new day gradually unfolding. This is followed by a “looking back” across the piece with a collage of music from the four preceding movements.
Swords into Ploughshares (2017) was composed for Esther Ward-Caddle and is in five movements.
1st – This Peaceful Morning
2nd – Partings: The movement opens with the folksong “The Banks of the Nile” from the time of the Napoleonic Wars, played on unaccompanied cello. This melody is interrupted three times by other songs which are also about men departing for war: first “Goodbye Dolly Gray” from the American Civil War, then “The Recruited Collier” from the Napoleonic Wars and lastly “Goodbye” which dates from the First World War. The whole orchestra then plays an arrangement of “The Banks of the Nile”. “The Recruited Collier” follows on solo cello with violins and violas beating a drum-like rhythm with the back of the bow. The sustained low E in the cellos and double basses here symbolises a darkness growing from the collier’s wartime experiences which have traumatised him. The personality transformation shatters his beloved’s relationship with him. The tragic ending of her love for him is symbolised by the low E breaking into tremolo. The whole orchestra then play this tune. The movement ends with the cello playing fragments of all four songs over tremolo chords.
3rd – Conflict
4th – Lamentation: A response to seeing the aftermath of war.
5th – Imagine: This movement recapitulates “This Peaceful Morning”. However, it opens with a chord building up note by note to the speech rhythm of the word “imagine”, which is like saying “imagine” four times. This recurring gesture expresses the hope that the arrival of a new day will one day be a conflict-free experience for all human beings.
Barry Mills (2002)
Barry Mills was born in 1949 and is for the most part self-taught as a composer. He obtained a degree in Biochemistry from Sussex University in 1971, returning there in 1976-77 to pursue an MA in Music, studying analysis with David Osmond-Smith and David Roberts and composition with Colin Matthews and Ann Boyd.
Seven CDs of his music have been issued by Claudio Records. Thalia Myers commissioned the piano piece “Clouds” from him for the Spectrum 2 collection published by the Associated Board and recorded by her on the NMC double CD “Spectrum”. This piece was issued by the Associated Board as a Grade 3 set piece in August 2002.
His orchestral piece “Tartano” was premiered by the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Jiri Mikula, in 1997 in Olomouc, the Czech Republic, and recorded by them for the Vienna Modern Masters label.
His music has been performed and broadcast in England and Switzerland and has featured in recitals in many London venues including the Wigmore Hall, Purcell Room, St Martin’s in the Fields, St John’s Smith Square, the Almeida Theatre and the Warehouse. Performances have also taken place in the USA, Greece, Germany, Czech Republic, Wales and Italy.
To date Barry Mills has collaborated with Jerry Laurence (VPM Design) in producing 46 filmed performances of his music for YouTube. These can all be accessed via his website below.
He now divides his time between composing and organising concerts in the Brighton area.
Nathaniel Mander is devoted to authentic harpsichord touch and 18th century aesthetic. Known for his expressive and virtuosic performances, he pursues an international career performing as harpsichordist and forte pianist.
At a young age Nathaniel was entranced by the unique sound of the harpsichord and was inspired to take up the instrument. He began his education with Richard Lester in Cirencester, where he also gave his first recitals. In 2007 Nathaniel moved to London to train at the Royal Academy of Music with Carole Cerasi.
He graduated with first class honours and took first prize at both the Early Keyboard Ensemble Competition at Fenton House and the Broadwood Solo Harpsichord competition.
He was appointed Junior Fellow at the Royal College of Music for 2 consecutive years after which he spent time in Paris and Rome in order to take lessons with Elisabéth Joyé, Skip Sempe, Pierre Hantai and Béatrice Martin.
Nathaniel now pursues a varied career as a performer, recording artist and teacher. In 2022 he released his debut recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.
Imogen Whitehead is a London-based soloist and freelance orchestral trumpeter. Since graduating from the Royal Academy of Music with First Class Honours, she has premiered works by Stephen Dodgson, Sally Beamish and Barry Mills and has received masterclasses from renowned soloists Håkan Hardenberger and Tine Thing Helseth. Imogen is a champion of the flugelhorn as a solo instrument and has commissioned a number of new pieces to expand its repertoire.
As a freelance musician, Imogen regularly performs as Guest Principal Trumpet with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, English National Opera, Britten Sinfonia and Aurora Orchestra. She has also worked and toured with the London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra and Academy of St Martin in the Fields amongst others. Imogen is an alumna of Southbank Sinfonia (2016) and a regular deputy for Les Misérables in the West End.
Esther Ward-Caddle studied the cello with Christopher Bunting, a former pupil of Pablo Casals. Since graduating from the University of East Anglia, she has played extensively in chamber groups and orchestras in London and around the country as well as maintaining a busy teaching programme. Living and working in Brighton for many years, Esther played with many contemporary music groups, including TACET and New Music Brighton, where she often met Barry. She also enjoyed working with the University of Sussex Music Department on many of their performance projects both with staff and also helping students with their compositions. She has premiered many new works, including Stephanie Cant’s “Variations on Kate’s Theme”, works by Michael Finnissy, Ed Hughes, Martin Butler and of course, Barry Mills. Discovering new musical sounds has become a passion over the years. Since moving to Lincolnshire, Esther has also become Chair of the Lincolnshire International Chamber Music Festival.
Pavel Šnajdr is a Czech conductor and composer. He is a graduate of the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts (JAMU), Brno in composition (which he studied with Alois Piňos) and conducting (with Emil Skoták). Beyond working with symphony orchestras, he has been engaged by music theatres including the J.K. Tyl Theatre in Pilsen, the Prague State Opera and the Moravian Theatre in Olomouc, and currently conducts opera at the National Theatre in Brno. As a graduate in the discipline, he still feels some responsibility for composition, and perhaps this is the source of his interest in contemporary music and its performance. While still a student at JAMU, he collaborated with Ars Incognita, an ensemble that played contemporary music, and after his stint in Pilsen, he decided to take a step into the unknown – he approached a few musicians and together they founded the Brno Contemporary Orchestra.
The Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra ranks among the oldest symphony orchestras in the Czech Republic and is based in Olomouc, the historic capital of Moravia. The orchestra has participated in important international festivals in Greece, Germany, Spain, France, Italy and Austria as well as annually touring Europe. Critics and audiences everywhere have responded enthusiastically to their performances. In recent years the orchestra has made many recordings of contemporary music.
I would like to thank Vít Mužík, the producer, Pavel Kunčar the recording engineer and his assistants Antonín Kánský and Ladislav Kubišta for all the care and attention they gave to making the recordings, and Aneta Vondráčková, the orchestra’s manager for her patience and thoughtful organisation of all aspects of the recording project.
I am very grateful to Colin Attwell of Claudio Records for liaising with the recording engineers to achieve a remarkable beauty of sound.
Nathaniel Mander gave generously of his time demonstrating the workings of the harpsichord, and his advice and input regarding the solo harpsichord sections of “Caledonia” were invaluable.
Thank you to Geoff Hands for allowing me to use his beautiful painting for the CD cover.
My thanks to Alex Attwell for the care he has takenregarding the layout of the booklet notes. track list and cover image design.
Finally, I am enormously grateful to Amelia Mills and Kay Sharp for editing and proofreading these sleeve notes.
MUSICAL OPINION Review
Another excellent disc of the attractive and intelligent music by the English South Coast composer Barry Mills (born 1949). Most of Mills’s music has been written especially for performing friends, and there is a welcome immediacy of expression in his music, as well as an intelligent creative mind that conceived it, that reinforce the essential communicative nature of his art.
One must applaud both the natural impetus that lies behind his ideas as well as his directness of expression. Mills is clearly a genuinely gifted composer, one who quietly ploughs his own furrow which produces – as these and other works readily demonstrate – music that is intriguing and well worth exploring by listeners and professional musicians.
The most substantial work here is the Trumpet Concerto of 2019, written for the fine soloist on this recording, Imogen Whitehead. It is in five movements, in the second of which the soloist swaps her trumpet for a flugelhorn, a most appealing slow movement I Love My Love. She is finely partnered by the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra who also are the partners of cellist Esther Ward-Caddie in Swords into Ploughshares. Effectively a five-movement (25’) cello concerto, this is an equally entrancing score.
The recording quality, as one would expect from this source, is first-class in all respects and those looking for worthwhile music slightly to one side of most contemporary writing, eminently sane and sensibly composed by a genuine composer, would be well satisfied by investigating this new disc.
Caledonia opens with a single movement in four sections entitled Four Places in Tenerife. Mills proves himself to be a master of expressive orchestral writing. Ocean waves and garden breezes come powerfully alive.
The Trumpet Concerto explores so many different sound possibilities of the instrument using different mutes. The second movement based on the Cornish folksong, I’ll Love My Love is particularly delightful, played so smoothly by Imogen Whitehead on flugelhorn. There is fine orchestral and cello playing by Esther Ward-Caddle in Swords into Ploughshares a very appropriate work these days.
I have left till last the work which I thought was by far the best from both CDs. This is Caledonia which gives the second CD its title. Each of its three movements opens with painterly music descriptive of varied Scottish landscapes – Ripples on the Surface of the Loch, Highland Rain and Moorland Mist. Mills manages to marry these openings uninterruptedly with gorgeous orchestral colourings of Scottish folksongs. Solo harpsichord played by Nathaniel Mander introduces just some of the songs. Above all, the overall shaping of this work is masterful. Each well-chosen item flows beautifully into the rest. Mills’ orchestral settings, though different from those of Vaughan Williams, stand proudly alongside those of the master.
Review by Alan Cooper