Elan Valley/Barry Mills – CC6040


I visited Elan Valley in April 2016 with my wife Amelia and our friends Les and Julie Shaw (to whom the piece is dedicated). I had many musical ideas during our time there in response to the beauty of this area and later developed these into an orchestral piece.Barry Mills


Elan Valley begins with music depicting shifting patterns of light on water. Fragments of the song of the dipper are then played in unison by the flute and celesta over a sustained chord in the strings. The Welsh folksong Dacw ‘Nghariad then appears in the oboe accompanied by strings. Birdsong-like figures in the woodwind then lead into a development of the opening music which is followed by a varied version of the folksong in the harp. Music evoking water cascading over the dams follows. The folksong then returns first on unaccompanied bassoon, then clarinet, then horn interrupted each time by the song of the dipper on the flute and celesta. Some of the material from the beginning is then recapitulated leading to the buildup of the chord across the whole of the string section to end the piece.

This double concerto was composed for Daniel Ahlert (mandolin) and Birgit Schwab (guitar) and was performed by them with the Akademisches Orchester Basel, conductor Raphael Immoos, in Martinskirche, Basel, Switzerland on 22nd September 2007.

The piece is in four movements: 1. Rainfall 2. Serenade 3. The piercing Wind 4. The ever changing Sea.

The combination of mandolin, guitar, two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, horn, harp and strings provided me with a rich orchestral palette. I have interwoven all these colours to evoke images, atmospheres and emotions suggested by the titles of each of the movements. The mandolin and guitar are very much in the foreground.

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 and Aleš Dvořák and Jan Košulič, the recording engineers for all the care and attention they gave to making the recordings. I would also like to thank Jan Sítař, the manager of the orchestra for all his kindness and thoughtfulness during our time in Olomouc. Nothing was ever too much trouble for him.

I am very grateful to Colin Attwell of Claudio Records for liaising with the recording engineers in order to achieve beauty of sound on the recording sessions.

Special thanks go to my dear friend Jude Howell for her generous financial support which has made the production of this CD possible.

Originally a student of the inspirational Sasha Levtov, Sam trained under Charles Ramirez and Jakob Lindberg at the Royal College of Music, graduating in 2015. Latterly he has studied at the Swiss-Italian Conservatory with Lorenzo Micheli, who profoundly influenced his approach to the guitar.

Sam presently lives in Bath, UK, where he is active as a soloist, orchestral performer and accompanist on guitar and lute. He plays a spruce and ziricote guitar by Daniele Chiesa.

Sam and Barry struck up a firm friendship while Sam was a student at the RCM, which has endured through all his travels.

DUO AHLERT & SCHWAB (mandolin and guitar duo)
Birgit Schwab (guitar) and Daniel Ahlert (mandolin) have been performing together since 1992 and have given hundreds of recitals in Europe and the US. During their first year of giving concerts as a duo they won 1st prize at the international chamber music competition in Soumagne/Belgium. Critics and audiences have admired their unique sound, brilliant technique and rhythmical fire.

Duo Ahlert & Schwab have made six CDs for Antes and Naxos and their performances have been broadcast on TV and radio in many countries. They have premiered more than 100 compositions, almost all of which have been dedicated to them. Daniel and Birgit have their own publishing company “Edition Corvus” which has published many of these works.

PETR VRONSKÝ (conductor)
Petr Vronský was originally a very successful violinist and started conducting in 1971 in The Opera of Plzeň, from where he moved to Ústí nad Labem as a head of the opera ensemble. Successes in a number of competitions Prague (1970), Besancon (1971) and Berlin (1973) helped him to develop his career as a conductor. He has conducted many important Czech orchestras and regularly works with orchestras in other countries. Since 2005 he has been the principal conductor of6the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra.

second movement and they weave in and out of constantly changing textures in the other movements. Ostinati, repeated notes, brief ascending or ascending-descending patterns are juxtaposed throughout movements one, three and four to create an “aural mosaic”.

This piece was commissioned by the Sussex Symphony Orchestra to celebrate their 20th anniversary. It was performed by them and their conductor Mark Andrew James on 9 March 2013 in Hove Town Hall, England.

The music opens with string chords rising and falling in volume alternating with chords building up note by note in the wind to suggest breezes and sprinklings of raindrops. This tentative beginning ends with a string chord accompanied by triangle trill. A brass chord within which each note is sequentially accented begins the next section which portrays continuous rainfall. An ascending line in the harp, which gets slower and slower ends this section. A bar of silence follows and then music evoking sunset begins. Here rolls on cymbal and tambourine and single strokes on tamtam and cymbals evoke light breaking through clouds. The changing relationships of cloud formations are portrayed by superimposing chords and tremolos which rise and fall in volume on brass, woodwind and strings – each instrumental group entering and leaving at a different time. A chord building up note by note across the strings suggesting darkness gradually replacing light brings a sense of closure to the music.

GUITAR CONCERTO (The Travels of Turlough O’Carolan) (2014) This piece was composed for Sam Brown.

Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738) was the son of a blacksmith/farmer who lived in County Meath in Ireland. The family moved to County Roscommon in 1684 and O’Carolan caught smallpox in 1688 which left him blind. His father’s employer, Mrs McDermott Roe taught him to play the harp and subsequently provided him with a horse and a travelling companion so that he could travel and perform. He was encouraged to compose by one of his patrons and went on to write many beautiful melodies.

In this piece I have made arrangements of some of these melodies and composed 3 “musical episodes” evoking wind, sea, rivers, mountains, night and scattered these among the O’Carolan arrangements. By doing this I hope to give a sense of O’Carolan’s lifestyle of constant travel.

Below I have used capital letters to denote my imagistic music in order to distinguish this from the O’Carolan arrangements:
1st movement: O’Carolan’s Welcome – WALKING IN THE WIND – The Wind from the South (the latter Irish folk tune is not by O’Carolan but with its reference to the wind if felt right to have it here)

2nd movement: AT THE COAST – Princess Royal – The Fairy Queen – Eleanor Plunkett 3rd movement: IN THE MOUNTAINS – John O’Connor – Captain O’Kane
4th movement: FOLLOWING THE RIVER – Sheeberg and Sheemore
5th movement: UNDER THE STARS – This is taken from my suite of pieces for solo guitar “Guitar Sketches”

6th movement: Bridget Cruise Third Air – O’Carolan attended a school run by the Cruise family where he met and fell deeply in love with Bridget Cruise. He composed many pieces in her honour.

This piece was composed for Daniel Ahlert and is in four movements.

1. Watching the Surface of the Sea
2. My Singing Bird
3. The Interplay of Dark and Light
4. Postlude

The first movement depicts the multiplicity of shifting patterns of light and ripples on the surface of the sea. The second movement opens with “My Singing Bird”, an Irish folk song, arranged for unaccompanied mandolin. This is followed by three variations of this tune. Birdsong-like melodic figures are then played in unison by mandolin, a solo bowed violin and a solo plucked violin against tremolo chords in the rest of the strings. The third movement alternates passages derived from the octatonic scale (dark) with passages derived from the whole tone scale (light). The last movement has a nocturnal quality and

is influenced by the “night music” of Bartok. It looks back to the second movement before ending with three harmonics on the mandolin and a chord on strings which fades to ppp.

BARRY MILLS (composer)
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.

Four CDs of his chamber 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, Germany, Czech Republic, Wales and Italy.

To date Barry Mills has collaborated with Jerry Laurence (VPM Design) in producing 45 films of performances of his music for Youtube. These can all be accessed by going to his website see link below.

He now divides his time between composing and organising concerts in the Brighton area. SAM BROWN (guitar)
Sam Brown pursues an international concert career, performing across Europe, in China and in Kenya.

**Composers Website

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