Paul Alan Barker, Composer

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Premiere Cast recording of El Gallo on Quindecim, QD11207,  Mexico 2011

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Buy Entre Palabras

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In a completely different vein is the theatrical music of the British-Mexican composer Paul Barker whose Canciones entre Palabras (Songs Between Words) and La cancion de Cabecera (The Pillow Song) receive their premiere recordings on an issue from Quindecim Recordings. I was unfamiliar with Barker’s music before this recording, but am much impressed with his music that is full of unexpected rhythmic complexities and astringent timbres. Canciones entre Palabras is a collection of 14 a cappella songs (solo, duet and trio) employing vocalized syllables. The songs range in character from Zen-like stasis to manic parlando and demand virtuosic technique on the part of the performers. This is amply supplied by soprano Lourdes Ambriz, mezzo Maria Huesca, and baritone Benito Navarro. The radiant voice of Ambriz is also featured in the role of Sei Shonagan, the heroine of La cancion de Cabecera, Barker’s opera based on an 11th-century Japanese autobiography of the life of an imperial concubine. The composer uses an accompaniment of only traditional temple bells, cymbals and tam-tams in an effort to approximate the aesthetic of Noh drama. His text-settings, however, are at times very florid and definitely un-Noh-like in character. The libretto, crafted by Barker and sung in English, alternates between solo sections for Sei Shonagan and choruses for a group of court gossips. La cancion de Cabecera is a truly spectacular work...

sample and or buy Turquoise Swans

Listen to or order from Amazon

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Sarah Leonard’s superb renderings of Paul Barker’s Three Songs for Sylvia Plath comprehensively vindicate the inspiring effect her remarkable voice had on the composer during their early days at the Guildhall School of Music. Sensitively supported by Barker’s subtle harmonic effects at the piano, Leonard caresses the lyrical phrases and transcends the grand melodic leaps with astonishing flexibility. There can hardly be a more potent musical interpretation of Plath’s wondrous delineation of childbirth. Leonard premiered Barker’s opera Some Dirty Tricks (concerning the intrigues between BA and Virgin Atlantic) in 1997 and she makes a seductive hostess here, escorting the listener with vocal aerobatics and imposing theatrical presence. Barker’s dynamic energy in the work’s piano sonnets (interludes) and Leonard’s seductive allure – showing breathtaking virtuosity at the extremes of her vocal range – are irresistible. Although the music for The Thief of Songs III was originally scored for voice and singing bowls, the version with piano is no less atmospheric. This duo’s evocative illustration of ‘The Dream’, mellifluous unaccompanied singing in the title song’s Aztec folk lines, and beautiful poise in the ‘Song to Ease Birth’ leave a lasting impression. This is concentrated and elaborate music, but 30 minutes’ playing time is surely not enough. 
 BBC Music Magazine
 http://www.classical-music.com/review/barker
 

Tambuco CD

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"After listening to the most recent disc of the soprano Lourdes Ambriz, "Body of Summer" (Quindecim, 2008), one could think about Henry Miller's words: “The imagination is the voice of boldness”. In company of her husband, Luis Red Antonio, they give life to a repertoire for voice and contrabass that marks the challenge. Body of the Summer takes its name from the first piece in the disc, Builds of Red, that musicalisa a poem of Odysseas Elytis. Eduardo Angle, Jorge Sáenz Towers, Eugene Toussaint, Enrique González Medina, Mario Lavista, Paul Barker, Jesus Echevarría, Arthur González Martinez and Torn Victor conform the group of composers who, urged by Ambriz, created original works for this format." El Milenio ONLINE

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Pedro’s Progress [11:47]for solo piano recorded by Ana Cervantes on Solo Rumores QUINDECIM RECORDINGS 186 (21007)

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