Orchestra

Three categories: 1 Symphony / 2 Chamber / 3 String

Works listed in reverse chronological order (most recent first) in each category

Symphony Orchestra

Ground Circle (2019)

for symphony orchestra

2 fl, picc; 2 ob, ca; 2 cl, b cl; 2 bsn, cbsn
4 hn; 2 tpt; 3 tbn, tba
timp, perc, hp
strings

Duration: c. 4 minutes

Full score here

Constant and at the same time revolving, Ground Circle revisits some favourite musical haunts: the 17th century form of ‘ground bass’ (much-loved by Henry Purcell), together with the medieval musical technique of ‘isorhythm’.

There are two alternating sections. The first, a pedal point in the lower instruments under a changing, sometimes dissonant harmony; followed by the reverse – an unchanging melodic pattern (introduced by the marimba) over a shifting ground bass.


Deus ex machina (2017)

for symphony orchestra

2 fl; 2 ob, ca; 2 cl; 2 bsn
2 hn; 2 tpt
timp; perc; hp
strings

Duration: c. 8 minutes

Full score here

Full score and parts available from Ty Cerdd

The phrase ‘deus ex machina’ seems to suggest an ambiguous paradox implicating the divine and the mechanical. Often translated as ‘the god from the machine’, the term refers to a theatrical device employed by dramatists in ancient Greece to resolve plot complications. The resolution was usually achieved with the sudden or unexpected arrival of a god delivered by some sort of machinery, such as a crane. The expression has continued to be used when supernatural forces intervene in disputes, or between warring factions, to restore harmony. 

The opposing factions in this work are musical ideas drawn from different cultures, African and Western European. Both musical fragments are associated with the phenomenon of thunder: one a West African ritual dance, and the other a depiction of a thunderstorm in an 18th-century opera. The intervention to restore tranquility and harmony, though, offers an uneasy resolution and the work ends, harmonically at least, with a suggestion of a musical question mark.

Composed for 12-piece ensemble in 1996, it was scored for orchestra in 2017.

First performed by BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by B. Tommy Andersson on 19 February 2019 at BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff

19.02.19CARDIFFBBC Hoddinott HallBBC National Orchestra of Wales

Michelangelo Sketches (2013)

for symphony orchestra

2 fl, picc; 2 ob, ca; 2 cl, b cl; 2 bsn, cbsn
4 hn; 2 tpt; 2 tbn, tba
timp; perc; hp
strings

Duration: c. 11 minutes

Full score here

1.  Releasing the sculpture
2.  Ascension

‘Releasing the sculpture’, was first performed at BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff Bay on 1 April 2015 by BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Jac van Steen 

01.04.15CARDIFFBBC Hoddinott HallBBC National Orchestra of Wales

The Transport of Time (1999)

for symphony orchestra

2 fl; 2 ob; 2 cl; 2 bsn, cbsn
4 hn; 2 tpt; 2 tbn, b tbn; tba
2 perc; timp
strings

Duration: 12 minutes

Commissioned by Newport County Borough Council for their Millennium celebrations
First performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales at Newport Leisure Centre on 20 November 1999

20.11.99NEWPORTLeisure CentreBBC National Orchestra of Wales

Shut Up and Dance (1994)

for symphony orchestra

2 fl (+ picc); 2 ob; 2 cl (+ b cl); 2 bsn (+ cbsn)
4 hn; 2 tpt; 2 tbn, b tbn; tba
2 perc; pno; hp
strings

Duration: 10 minutes

Full score here

Commissioned by BBC, Radio 3

The musical language of Shut Up And Dance is heavily influenced by non-European ideas as well as ‘popular’ dance music. Deliberately, there is no attempt at combining the various strands: African and Brazilian rhythms glide past Indonesian gamelan with the whole supported by African drumming. In one continuous movement, the work remains in the same tempo throughout and consists of alternating verses and refrains. The refrains are scored for full orchestra exploring an endless sequence of chords which strive upwards underpinned by a full array of tom-toms in the percussion section.The title comes from the name of a New York nightclub and was composed in the summer of 1994.

First performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales with conductor Grant Llewellyn at St David’s Hall, Cardiff on 17 November 1994

17.11.94CARDIFFSt Davids HallBBC National Orchestra of Wales
10.09.97CARDIFFVale of Glamorgan FestivalBBC National Orchestra of Wales
23.09.98CARDIFFCoal ExhangeBBC National Orchestra of Wales
05.01.14ASCOTLVSBerkshire Youth Symphony Orchestra
21.07.14BUDAPESTKarmelia UdvarBerkshire Youth Symphony Orchestra
13.01.17CARDIFFBBC Hoddinott HallBBC National Orchestra of Wales

Press
“Barber’s music, minimalistically Afro-Manhatten (the new work is named after a New York night-club), is candidly a child of the pick-up ensemble: easy-going, fun, slightly whacky in its ornamentation of (not quite maddeningly) naïve, repetitive melodic figures and rhythm.”
Stephen Walsh, The Independent, 19 November 1994


Chamber Orchestra

LUDWIG (2017)

for chamber orchestra

2 fl; 2 ob; 2 cl; 2 bsn
2 hn; 2 tpt
timp
strings

Duration:  c. 11 minutes

Full score here

1.  Allegro con brio
2.  Adagio sostenuto: delicatissimamente
3.  Allegro vivace

The opening section, Allegro con brio, is a reworking of the first movement, much compressed, of Beethoven’s Symphony No 7 in A major, Op. 92. Beethoven’s long ascending scales and low sustained pedal notes have been reorganised whilst the lively dance-like rhythms gain extra vibrancy through adopting Latin American colours.

The second movement, Adagio sostenuto: delicatissimamente, takes a few bars from the opening of Beethoven’s Piano sonata No 14 in C-sharp minor – the so-called “Moonlight” sonata. The celebrated quaver triplet motif is transformed into an interlocking pattern between woodwind instruments followed by a version for strings.

The final movement, Allegro vivace, is based on a few passages from Beethoven’s Fidelio Overture. Beginning with a quiet subterranean intensity, the music develops through sudden dramatic episodes; the unresolved harmony of the original driving it constantly forward in search of a sense of resolution.

First performed by Welsh Sinfonia conducted by Mark Eager on 23 February 2018 at Wiltshire Music Centre

23.02.18BRADFORD-ON-AVONWiltshire Music CentreWelsh Sinfonia
17.08.18CARDIFFRWCMD, Dora Stoutzker Concert HallWelsh Sinfonia

Michelangelo Sketches (2016)

for chamber orchestra

2 fl; 2 ob; 2 cl; 2 bsn
2 hn; 2 tpt
timp; perc
strings

Duration: c. 14 minutes

Full score here

1.  Releasing the sculpture
2.  Perspective
3.  Separating Darkness from Light
4.  Kyrie and Ground


Scarlatti Remix (2015)

for chamber orchestra

2 fl; 2 ob; 2 cl; 2 bsn
2 hn; 2 tpt
strings

Duration: c. 10 minutes

Full score here

The three sections – Allegro, Andante and Vivace – are directly inspired by Domenico Scarlatti’s keyboard sonatas: two sequences from Sonata in B minor K 27; the opening 8-bar harmonic sequence from Sonata in E minor K 81; and an adaptation, influenced by Arabic rhythms, of Sonata in F minor K 555.

First performed by Welsh Sinfonia conducted by Mark Eager on 15 January 2016 at Christ College, Brecon

15.01.16BRECONChrist CollegeWelsh Sinfonia
05.02.16BRADFORD ON AVONWiltshire Music CentreWelsh Sinfonia
30.04.16CARDIFFRWCMD, Dora Stoutzker Concert HallWelsh Sinfonia

Grounds For Action (1991)

for chamber orchestra

2 fl; 2 ob; 2 cl; 2 bsn
2 hn; 2 tpt; 2 tbn
2 perc; pno
strings

Duration: 10 minutes

Grounds For Action is a set of passacaglias, or grounds, in canon form. The original score was commissioned by Moving Being in 1988 for In Düsseldorf and Nebraska, a mixed media performance in memory of the controversial German artist Joseph Beuys. During the performance, the music accompanied the actions of three artists/technicians who intermittently manipulated the performance space to create new spatial structures. In a similar way, the ground bass line which forms the raw material for the music undergoes a number of transformations which develop in strict three-part canon.

First performed by the Welsh College of Music and Drama Chamber Orchestra at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff on 15 November 1991

15.11.91CARDIFFSherman TheatreWCMD Chamber Orchestra
16.11.91CARDIFFSherman TheatreWCMD Chamber Orchestra

Jaliya (1990)

for chamber orchestra

2 fl (+ picc); 2 ob; 2 cl; 2 bsn
2 hn; 2 tpt; 2 tbn
2 perc; pno
strings

Duration: 16 minutes

Commissioned by the Welsh College of Music and Drama with funds supplied by the Welsh Arts Council

Jaliya meaning ‘music of the Jalis’, refers to the hereditary musicians, or ‘jalis’, of north west Africa whose vocal and instrumental music inspired the present work. The score of Jaliya combines elements of the ‘kora’ (African harp) technique and the Islamic influenced vocal characteristics with traditional African drumming patterns.

First performed by the Welsh College of Music and Drama Chamber Orchestra at St David’s Hall, Cardiff on 20 November 1990

20.11.90CARDIFFSt David’s HallWCMD Chamber Orchestra
30.04.91CHELTENHAMPump RoomWCMD Chamber Orchestra
01.06.91 ST DAVID’SCathedralWCMD Chamber Orchestra
15.11.91CARDIFFSherman TheatreWCMD Chamber Orchestra
16.11.91CARDIFFSherman TheatreWCMD Chamber Orchestra

Sex and Death at Covent Garden (1983-86)

for chamber orchestra

2 ob; 1 t sax; 1b sax (+ a sax)
1 tpt; 1 tbn
timp
2 vla; 2 vcl; db

Duration: 50 minutes

Full score of Intrada here

Commissioned by Chapter, Cardiff, with funds provided by the Welsh Arts Council

Sex and Death at Covent Garden is an installation event for chamber orchestra. Taking as its starting point a few musical fragments from Gluck’s opera Orfeo, the work explores eighteenth century stylistic and structural ideas. The musicians are constantly re-distributed, splitting into mobile groups to create a wide range of spatial effects. 
Section 1:     
1          Intrada
2          Allegro I
3          Recitative + Aria
4          Allegro II
5          Cadenza
Section 2:     
6          Quartetto
7          Adagio
8          Ritornello
9          Passacaglia
Section 3:     
10         Allegro III
11         Cadenza

First performed by the New Arts Consort at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff on 2 May 1986
with Ruth Watson (oboe), Bethan Thomas (oboe), Matthew Bailey (alto and baritone saxophones), Merlin Shepherd (tenor saxophone), Katherine Gifford (trumpet), Gwyn Daniels (trombone), John Abendstern (timpani), Charlie Buchanan (viola), John Rayson (viola), Steven Callow (cello), Alexandra Robinson (cello), Michael Bell (double bass) and Lol Coxhill

02.05.86CARDIFF National Museum of WalesNew Arts Consort
17.05.86NOTTINGHAMMidland GroupNew Arts Consort

Press
“Charlie Barber’s latest work, Sex and Death at Covent Garden, is a stunning event. Performed by the new Arts Consort in Cardiff’s National Museum of Wales among homoerotic marble sculptures and white-jacketed Canton trendies, it’s reminiscent of those Sixties happenings where the audience was an integral part of the live performance…The orchestra, starting with 10 bars from Gluck’s Orfeo, disperse and reassemble at various points…The music is marvellously sonorous, arranged with the skill that is always apparent in Barber’s work.”
David Adams, The Guardian, May 1986

“Charlie Barber’s Sex and Death at Covent Garden intriguingly called ‘an orchestral installation’, is basically an extended composition for chamber orchestra, whose members are ‘constantly re-distributed, splitting into mobile groups to create a wide range of spatial effects’. Sections of the piece come from the heavens, in the gallery of the museum’s high rotunda, other parts from the widely distanced staircases at either end of the hall, and from other more obscure parts, all in the tradition of the spatial antiphony of Gabrieli at St Marks. Barber’s very fine orchestral composition is an extended piece in eleven short movements for thirteen players, entirely derived from ten bars of the opening chorus of Gluck’s opera Orfeo systematically dissected, displaced, and subjected to various compositional procedures. The music stands apart from run of the mill systems music, however, in being rigorously organised but not static, and well able to hold its own developmentally for its 50 minutes duration.”
David Briers, Performance magazine, July 1986

Further information, video and photos here


String Orchestra

Kyrie (2021)

for string orchestra

Duration: c. 3 minutes

Full score here


Improvisations & Allegro on a Theme by Handel (2016)

for string orchestra

Duration: c. 7 minutes

Full score here

These two movements, inspired by the works of G. F. Handel, were composed in summer 2015.

‘Improvisations’ is based on two bars from the first movement of Handel’s Sonata in G minor, HWV 356a. Transposed through a cycle of fifths, the musical phrase is developed in miniature concertante form: soli viola and cello alternating with full strings.

The ‘Allegro’ section, derived from Handel’s Sonata for Viola da Gamba and Harpsichord (1705), is in binary form: two related sections both repeated. With a slight nod to the 18th century affinity with the land of Egypt, the music gains extra energy with a vigorous, driving 13/8 rhythm of Middle Eastern origin.

First performed by Welsh Sinfonia conducted by Mark Eager on 6 October 2016 at Aberystwyth Arts Centre

06.10.16ABERYSTWTHArts CentreWelsh Sinfonia
07.10.16BRIDGENDArchbishop McGrath SchoolWelsh Sinfonia
12.11.16MILFORD HAVENTorch TheatreWelsh Sinfonia
18.11.16LLANGOLLENYsgol Dinas Bran SchoolWelsh Sinfonia
24.02.17BRADFORD-ON-AVONWiltshire Music CentreWelsh Sinfonia

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