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Work of the Week – Gerald Barry: Cello Concerto

Work of the Week – Gerald Barry: Cello Concerto

“Cellissimo” is Music for Galway’s new international cello festival on the edge of Europe. It presents its first concerto gala with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra’s concert on 11 May 2022 at Leisureland Center in Galway. In this unique combination of aquatic and concert hall, Edward Elgar’s famous cello concerto is combined with the world premiere of Gerald Barry’s Cello Concerto. Cellist Adrian Mantu from Galway is soloist alongside conductor David Brophy. 

The Irish composer wrote this new concerto in 2019 as a commission by Music for Galway and the Cello Biennale Amsterdam. Originally, it was scheduled to be premiered two years ago but the performance was postponed, like many others during that time. 


Irish or Ironic? Gerald Barry’s unique interpretation of the Cello Concerto genre

TheCello Concerto itself is typical for Barry: At the beginning, it appears honest and well-behaved with some Irish melodies and rhythms heard from time to time, incorporated seamlessly as a natural expression. Quickly we start to feel that the piece is not as innocent as it seems, and nobody can be sure where the line of irony is drawn. The orchestral writing appears too clear, the repetitions too frequent and as soon as the impression arises that somebody might be fooling with us, it is almost too late. We are faced with seemingly endless consecutive general pauses, followed by bizarre harmonics and machine-like chromatic scales without a distinctive end. Between even more general pauses Barry confronts us with a minute-long solo of the wind machine. Is this a whimsical play of the with the audience and interpreters, or might this rather be an immediate insight in the unique musical world of the ingenious composer Gerald Barry…? 

In four sections, the first mainly going upwards, the second mainly going downwards, the third mainly going downwards and upwards, the fourth mainly going straight ahead. – Gerald Barry

The next world premiere of a Gerald Barry piece is not far away. On 2 June 2022 the Double Bass Concerto is premiered at Philharmonie Berlin with bassist Matthew McDonald and the Berlin Philhamornic, conducted by John Storgårds. This is certainly another extraordinary composition – just take a look at the score!

Photo: Frances Marshall