Interbeing/Barry Mills – CC6044
£9.99 – £23.99
“Barry Mills Volume 6 encompasses a wide range of delicate, sensitive music inspired
by his interaction with nature and his emotional life, which leads us into a world of
wonder and magic”.
“this outstandingly well-recorded disc is strongly commended to the enquiring music-lover”
Barry Mills Volume 6 encompasses a wide range of delicate, sensitive music inspired by his interaction with nature and his emotional life, which leads us into a world of wonder and magic. His works are performed with great enthusiasm by all the musicians on these recordings and his music is becoming widely known internationally. Recordings of his orchestral pieces and concertos with the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra on the CD “Elan Valley” released in March 2018 received glowing reviews, and further orchestral recordings are planned by Claudio in the near future.
Mills has guaranteed one thing few can claim, even some of the biggest names, and that is well nigh perfect recording quality. Listening to these beautifully crafted works, full of the most delicate and attractive orchestral effects has been an easy job for this reviewer. Mills does not believe in making life uncomfortable for the audience in that these pieces, though clearly modern, are never raucous or noisy, and indeed often have a very tuneful quality.
Review I – Musical Opinion Magazine
This, the latest in the increasingly impressive series of recordings of the music of Barry Mills from the Claudio label is arguably the most wide-ranging in that it combines original compositions with arrangements of ethnic folk music, revealing at least in part – those more identifiable aspects of the roots of Mills’s compositional language. One should not infer from this that Mills’s work is essentially a throwback to the folk-based compositions of a century and more ago, for he reveals, both in his arrangements and in his original works, an individual voice that demonstrates the continuing revivification of such deeply-rooted musical expression. Not for Mills the fruitless chasing after of current fashion, in whatever shape it arises, but a genuinely consistent mining of true musical seams, rich in promise and fulfilling in achievement.
The opening tracks – All the Mornings in the World, and Hard Times – show these twin strands admirably: original composition set against more ethnically- inspired music – and throughout this exceptionally well-filled release one is left in no doubt as to Mills’s genuine musicality and the appositeness of his instrumentation and natural inspiration. His technical command of the inherently natural qualities of composition – those of speaking directly to an interested audience in language that is not inherently off- putting – are much to be commended in a world where so many composers erect aural barriers to prevent the ready absorption of their creativity other than to a few followers of an inner circle.
Throughout, there is much to intrigue, move and admire in these five very contrasting (in instrumentation and expressive purpose) compositions, and in the very fine performances. One would not be surprised to learn the recordings were all made effectively under the composer’s supervision, for there is a truly committed feeling as a genuine listening experience throughout. The composer must have been thrilled at the result of these artists’ consistent musicianship, and this outstandingly well-recorded disc is strongly commended to the enquiring music-lover. Robert Matthew-Walker.
Review II – British Music Society
Barry Mills (b. 1949) is described in the booklet that comes with the CD as being ‘for the most part self-taught as a composer’. Would this stand him alongside English composers like Elgar or Havergal Brian?
From 1976 – 77, he did pursue an MA in Music at Sussex University, studying composition with Colin Matthews who in the 1970s was assistant to Benjamin Britten and a collaborator with Deryck Cooke on his performing version of Mahler’s Tenth Symphony.
This CD contains six of Mills’s compositions. Three of these have several movements making in all twenty-two different items. The overall title, ‘Interbeing’ is, according to the composer – ‘a Buddhist term for a deep sense of interconnection with both animate and inanimate manifestations of nature’.
’Interbeing’ is the very last composition on the CD. Its three movements, almost entirely for piano solo (there is a rainstick at one point), were composed in 2016 for pianist Nancy Cooley, one of the performers, and an important one throughout nearly all the music. There is a string quartet, a guitar duo and in one item, a folk singer, Charlotte Spong, along with a classically trained vocal quartet.
Although the music is rather diverse in style, there is one common thread that runs through all of it. Barry Mills’s music paints pictures. The second of the seven movements of ‘Mirrored Moments’ scored for piano, violin, cello and clarinet is entitled ‘A Dance for Ravel’. It suggests an impressionist style. Some of the piano writing in ‘Interbeing’ is not the same, yet not too far off Debussy, another composer whose music painted pictures.
The first work on the CD, ‘All the Mornings in the World’ is exactly that. It takes us on a tour across the world using morning related song themes from Argentina, USA, India, Japan, Mali, Greece, Norway and Ireland. There is a tribute to Webern and his love of the Austrian Alps and a children’s lullaby.
Very different to all that is Mills’s setting of the folksong ‘Hard Times – Different Times’ for folksinger and vocal quartet which he brings right up to the present day.
I preferred the music where Mills’s own compositional voice shines through as in his ‘Septet’ (1989). It was selected by the Society for the Promotion of New Music’s reading panel. I found it fascinating. Alan Cooper.
Review III – Music Web International 2020
I previously reviewed Volume 5 of this series. This is Barry Mills’s sixth disc for Claudio. As previously mentioned his website is full of interest. It reveals amongst other things that he is mostly self taught and cannot be described as a professional composer because he worked as a postman to give himself afternoons to compose. One continues to admire such dedication.
The title for this disc is taken from the very last set of pieces for solo piano. It should perhaps have been taken from the first set which is much the longest. All the Mornings in the World consists of nine movements united not by thematic or structural links but by various interpretations of the concept of’morning’. As the composer says in his thorough and useful notes, mornings can be beginnings not only of days but of lives, seasons, human relationships and so on. Each movement has a descriptive title which acts with the music itself to guide the listener towards the mood or picture Mills wishes to invoke. The instruments used, a string quartet, flute, clarinet, piano and percussion, are often subdivided into various combinations, making listening a constantly beguiling experience. The opening of the first movement Silver Paper – Bright Morning Star emerges from absolute silence so slowly that one is uncertain if it has actually started. This sort of subtlety is hugely aided by the superbly clear and very wide ranging recording. Frequently in this lengthy suite Mills quotes folk songs and a hymn, contrasting them with his own modern-impressionism to great effect, rather reminiscent of Copland’s use of Simple Gifts in Appalachian Spring. I found the composer’s descriptions helpful in following the myriad fragmentary impressions of his music. The playing throughout this work and indeed the rest of the disc is of the highest standard.
After the thirty-plus minutes of All the Mornings in the World the next work comes as an aural shock because there are no instruments, just a pure-voiced folk singer and four accompanying voices as a balancing chorus in a complex setting of the folksong Hard Times, onto which Mills has grafted some of his own ideas and words. This piece is only six minutes long but it grips one’s attention. This is partly due to the lovely sounds but also the emotional impact he conveys. A splendid piece recorded with great clarity.
With Mirrored Moments we are back to another suite of impressions, this time more disparate and united only by their being played in sequence. The chosen instruments, clarinet, violin, cello and piano, are not a standard grouping and make for yet more intriguing sound combinations, a characteristic of all the ensemble pieces on this disc. Once again Mills’s notes guide one through his intentions.
The two pieces Cherry Blossom and Falling Leaves are for guitar duo and apart from being atmospheric, well played and astonishingly well recorded are of little musical interest to my ears. The Septet for flute, clarinet, harp and string quartet is the earliest piece on the disc and, whilst perfectly listenable and not outstaying its welcome, sounds very obviously like ‘modern music’, in that it lacks any obvious lyricism and sounds like an expert academic exercise. It doesn’t surprise me at all to read that it was written for the Society for the Promotion of New Music. Interbeing is a set of three contemplative piano pieces reflecting, says Mills, the Buddhist experience of the interconnectedness of things. These fall pleasantly on the ear and round off the disc comfortably.
As is obvious from my reactions, the most interesting pieces are the ensemble works which take up the major part of the disc and here Mills shows a notable talent for combining sounds and provoking emotional states. This is no small achievement and make the issue overall worth purchasing.
The Claudio Recording is of course excellent. The advantages of simple microphone techniques – only two were used – and a good acoustic are once again very obvious indeed. Colin Attwell is not alone in using such approaches, BIS often keep things similarly simple, but he is amongst the best. Top marks once again for technical quality in a programme which is not all gentle sounds by any means and has some very dynamic moments when the percussion gets going.
I note that the music on this Blu-ray Audio disc is available in both 24/96 and 24/192 formats. I can’t see any indication as to how one chooses one or the other. This review was of the default 24bit 192 kHz on my Oppo 205. I should also note that the short piece Falling Leaves is only on the BDA and not the CD, presumably for reasons of time. Dave Billinge.
Further releases on Claudio:
CC4318-2/CD Morning Sea – Barry Mills – Vol.1
CC4324-2/CD Under the Stars – Barry Mills – Vol.2
CC4325-2/CD Mosaics – Barry Mills – Vol.3
CC5153-2/CD Summer Waves – Barry Mill – Vol.4
CC6040-2/CD & BD/-6 Elan Valley – Barry Mills – Vol.5
CC6044-2/CD & BD/-6 Interbeing – Barry Mills – Vol.6