- New York, concerto for percussion quintet & chamber orchestra
- At Portage and Main, for percussion ensemble
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Gavin Bryars has long favored percussion instruments, and this album features three of his percussion quintets, one of them accompanied by chamber orchestra. He has had a relationship since the 1980s with the ensemble Percussion Claviers de Lyon (one of whose members plays with the Gavin Bryars Ensemble) and two of these pieces were written for the group. Bryars writes skillfully and idiomatically for the instruments and exploits both their rhythmic and melodic potential. The reliance on keyboard percussion gives him the chance to employ his characteristic tonal schemes, which recall the harmonies of Philip Glass, but that are deployed much more freely and tend to be more dramatically expressive and jazz-inflected. The title of "At Portage and Main" refers to a street corner in Winnipeg, the coldest intersection in North America. The piece effectively evokes the landscape; it begins with understated, chilly timbres that eventually give way to the icy sparkle of vibraphone and glockenspiel. New York is a concerto for percussion quintet and chamber orchestra. The title comes from a misread of Bryars' description of the piece as a "new work." He decided to stick with the title and apply it not to New York City but a tiny village in Lincolnshire near his home. It's a colorful, substantial piece rich in melody, with the haunting timbres of bowed instruments, including vibraphone, crotales, and cymbals, given a prominent part. Its development is subtle and ultimately charged with powerful emotional poignancy. The three works are among Bryars' most immediately appealing pieces and should interest any fans of the composer or of percussion ensembles or of developments in post-minimalism. Percussion Claviers de Lyon plays with great style and high energy. The sound of the CD, on the composer's own label, is clean, clear, and atmospheric.