Three Viennese Dancers

Gavin Bryars

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Three Viennese Dancers Review

by Brian Olewnick

Gavin Bryars' first recording for a widely distributed label found him midway between the more experimental works from his early career, recorded for Obscure and Les Disques du Crepuscule, and the later, more somberly romantic compositions of the '90s. The recording, oddly, begins and ends with exactly the same piece (despite their differing titles), a short, evocative composition for percussion and French horn, but it does provide an attractive set of bookends for the major piece here. The first is his "String Quartet No. 1," given a strong, precise, and impassioned reading by the Arditti Quartet. Bryars manages to achieve a subtle balance between the ghostly voicings of high-register strings and the subtle, underlying melancholy of the work. The "First Viennese Dance," a duo for French horn and percussion, seems to exist in some timeless, slightly northern clime, as one can imagine the horn's cries wafting over a meadow of chimes, gongs, bells, and bowed cymbals. Here, unlike in some later works, Bryars is able to be at once mysterious yet crystal clear, sad but serene. Three Viennese Dancers is one of the last albums of his that one can recommend unequivocally.

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