Matthew Barley/Cellist

Without music, life would be an error.

Friedrich Nietzsche

New website…and Calefax…

Welcome to my new website! It’s been a funny journey, only necessitated by the fact that my old site was hacked and therefore my email address compromised…emails started going astray and so my hand was forced: the only way to fix it was to build a whole new site…however, it’s actually been great to do this and I’m excited to be launching.

I shall be more active with blogging, posting videos (got some great ones in the pipeline) and generally being visible from now on. …

But my main news at the moment is of a new project with the Dutch Reed Quintet Calefax. It’s hard to know where to start with this group as they excel in every conceivable direction. They make the most wonderful, sensual, rich, enveloping sound – it’s a joy to be able to immerse my cello in that very pleasant sonic salt bath – and they are also technical wizards. It’s fascinating to be in rehearsal with them – how do a group who have been playing around 100 concerts a year for 32 years rehearse? How do they get on so well? Much of the answer must lie in the fact that they are just very nice, intelligent people and brilliant musicians, but also, they apply themselves: they have a 2-day workshop each year to explore issues of how they relate, ways of communicating, rehearsing techniques and so on. The result is that being with them in rehearsal is a real pleasure – it is relaxing, they respect each other and are always polite (well, I’m sure they have their moments when there are no visitors there, they are human after all, but the base is there J), and there is a feeling of mutual trust and patience. I have learnt so much.

We had a big programme to put together – arrangements of consort music by Purcell and Tye that work beautifully – they can make themselves sound like medieval wind instruments in the right music, haunting and plain; then there were two new commissions from Graham Fitkin and Joost Buis – extremely different, with Graham’s trademark driving rhythms and leaning melodies, and Joost’s wonderful understanding of the instruments and colours; a short arrangement of Dvorak’s serenade to open the concert, which I followed with some Bach and a bit of improvising, and they then added their quintet version of a Sweelinck chromatic fantasia. That would already be a big programme, but the main item, on top of all that, was Walton’s cello concerto, arranged by Jelte the bass clarinet player. Quite a feat to condense a large symphonic score into 5 parts, but it worked extremely well. It was about three years ago that I sat listening to them in concert wondering what on earth I could play with a wind quintet and thought of the Walton – mainly because of the prominence of winds in the score, but also because of the depth of sound that these guys make, and how suited to the thick dark colours of this most romantic of concertos. It’s one of my favourite pieces to play and was such a different experience to play it as a chamber work. I made them all laugh in the first rehearsal as I told them how hard it was going to be to have listen as I played! Normally the conductor takes care of the element of getting the orchestra to play with me, but in a chamber setting we had to share that responsibility…it made for a completely new experience of Walton, but one I absolutely relished. We had a practice run on Thursday and then played in Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw and Rotterdam’s De Doelen hall last week – what great spaces for cello! Utrecht, Nijmegen and Leiden to follow – dates on the new calendar. Along with a couple of solo recitals, a rare outing of Between The Notes, Brazilian Jazz with my dear wife, Viktoria Mullova, (or Mrs Barley, as our percussionist calls her…), a quick dash to the Oxford Chamber Music Festival which has become a real favourite, Brazilian jazz with my ensemble at Kings Place for the 10th anniversary concert, and the Gruber Concerto in Lativia….it’s busy times this month. Followed, in November, by outings for Dusapin’s new double concerto with Viktoria in Seattle and with the LPO.