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Gerald Barry: In the Asylum etc

Gerald Barry, Mary Dullea (piano); Fidelio Trio (Mode)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Gerald Barry
In the Asylum; 1998; All Day at Home Busy with My Own Affairs; Midday; Le vieux sourd; Baroness von Ritkart; Ø; Triorchic Blues
Gerald Barry, Mary Dullea (piano); Fidelio Trio
Mode MOD-CD-332   64:24 mins


Born in Ireland in 1952, Gerald Barry is a composer of singular imagination. He is perhaps best known for his operas, and his music is at once playful yet unyielding, baffling yet enlightening. This fine recording from the Fidelio Trio showcases some of Barry’s lesser-known chamber music and is a rare and strange delight.

The works featured cover some 36 years of composition, including Ø for piano quartet from 1979. The piece was originally scored for two pianos playing the same score simultaneously: ‘an impossibly vulnerable task’, notes the composer. This version for piano quartet features the ensemble playing the same simple, questing melody in unison throughout – and this delicate performance (the trio here joined by Rose Redgrave on viola) draws a compelling sense of tension and a curious melancholy from the task. Barry’s idiosyncratic wit is neatly conveyed in his Baroness von Ritkart for violin and piano (performed with deadpan restraint here), where its three brief movements (each lasts less than a minute) are titled: ‘1 – Clever, noble, but not talented; 2 – Talented, noble, but not clever; 3 – Talented, clever, but not noble’. Other highlights include the tightly-woven In the Asylum for piano trio and Midday for violin and piano, which explores with serene insistence a series of tapping motifs (and also exists, according to the composer, in ‘a loud version for eight horns and two wind machines’).

Beautifully performed throughout and featuring Barry’s own extraordinarily enjoyable sleeve notes, this is a terrific album which offers welcome insight into a composer of daring and integrity.


Kate Wakeling