Reviews

Around Britten Tour

The Independent 1.1.13

In 2010 when I began to dream up Around Britten, there seemed to be so much time. I could afford to ruminate at leisure on the 100 events that would make up my celebration of Britten’s centenary, the heart of which is taking the wonderful, emotional music of Britten to as many places and people in the UK as possible.

Suddenly it was September 2012, the tour was a matter of months away, and I had only confirmed a fraction of what I was aiming for, and half the money needed to pull it all off. I went into overdrive, working 16-hour days – I was touring at the time but the many undisturbed hours in hotel rooms were a blessing. Thinking of places to perform off the usual concert circuit – places where I thought live music would be truly memorable, and where I might find a different audience from the classical music-listening public in the concert halls – was one of my favourite aspects.

Click here to read the interview in full.

BBC Music Magazine blog

Matthew is a guest blogger for BBC Music Magazine. Read his latest blog posts about the Around Britten tour here.

Around Britten CD

 Sinfini Music January 2013 Julian Haylock

*****

Released in conjunction with Matthew Barley’s trailblazing 100-date tour of the UK marking Britten’s centenary year, played in an eclectic variety of venues (including a Devonshire wood), this engrossing recital is a defining statement in modern cello playing. Gone are the days when great players (Rostropovich included) tended to think instinctively on a grand scale, like a metaphorical bear-hug. Barley plays with the micro-instincts of a violinist, shading every phrase with the subtlest of nuances, creating an introspective world of startling poetic images. His treasurable multi-tracked adaptations of Britten folksong arrangements and an absorbing 10-minute improvisation recorded in the wee small hours in Coventry Cathedral provide the icing on a stunningly played and engineered musical cake.

Gramophone April 2013

As always, Barley’s playing is fearless. The disc is a voyage around the cello as well as around Britten, and one that never becomes relentless. In his Improvisation, there is skilfully woven reference to the profusion of styles in which he plays…The high point, though, is Barley’s arrangement of ‘Since she whom I loved’. Even without the words, Barley has managed to capture – and further amplify – its great sadness and isolation.

The Financial Times, 2.2.13

This will surely go down as one of the more offbeat centenary tributes to Britten. Barley, an unclassifiable cellist, builds his anthology around a thoughtful performance of Britten’s Third Suit for cello and the “quietly radiating peace” he finds in it.

BBC Music Magazine, May 2013

His performance of the Britten lets the light in on what can seem a rather obscure, labyrinthine work: Barley’s clear, calm approach lays out the score before us…The rest of the disc is like entering the chill-out room: Barley’s well crafted, multi-tracked cello arrangements of Britten’s folk songs and ‘Concord’ from Gloriana will appeal to many.

Peasant Girl CD

The BBC Music Magazine September 2011 Martin Cotton
Performance ***** Recording *****

This could easily slip into the world or jazz review sections. The opening track, For Nedim, was originally written by a pair of oud players from North Africa. Like most of the music here, it was arranged by Mullova’s husband, the cellist Matthew Barley. Its harmonic world and the structure of a slow, intense introduction followed by a frenetic dance put it firmly in the gypsy tradition. The jazz side arrives with the next track – Django, a tribute to the great guitarist, where Julian Joseph’s economical piano plays against Mullova’s relaxed, idiomatic violin. It was a brilliant idea to combine seven Bartok Duos with music by Bratsch, the French gypsy band, and jazz improvisations from Joseph and the two percussionists: the various musical elements are drawn into a creative symbiosis. The programme, which initially looked bitty, adds up to a coherent sequence, with two numbers by Weather Report not that far away from the world of Youssou N’Dour. All the performances have energy and imagination, and even though Kodaly’s Duo, passionately played by Mullova and Barley, might seem at a tangent to the rest, it makes perfect sense as the culmination of a beautifully recorded album

The Huffington Post 12.8.11 Laurence Vittes

If anything proves that classical music is moving in entirely new directions in 2011, this concept album from edgy fiddle player Viktoria Mullova, edgy cellist Matthew Barley and edgy friends seize the listener from the first insane attack of Viktoria’s violin screeching down inflicting pain on her e-string. The effect is electrifying and it belongs to 2 unforgettable CDs of loosely gypsy related music played by some of the great virtuosos of our time and a crack recording crew. This is not music to chill out to, although there are frequent moments of serene beauty, but get a copy and make your hair stand on end like Else Lanchester’s bride of Frankenstein. Everything here is at its core erotic and desperate to please and be pleased, whether it’s an homage to jazz legend Django Reinhardt, Barley’s take on Russian music, or Mullova’s take on life. It’s all over the place, united by wholly imagined and wildly different senses of place, time and spirit, with world music jostling for its share of the booty. Very exhilarating; obviously where classical music’s future lies.

The Sunday Times 19.06.11 CD

She has already shown us that she can handle a Miles Davis tune. The violinist Viktoria Mullova shreds even more categories on this soulful collaboration with her husband, the cellist Matthew Barley, and a chamber group featuring the pianist Julian Joseph. Gypsy melodies sit alongside Weather Report themes, a Youssou N’Dour number and more conventional pieces by Bartok and Kodaly. The MJQ classic Django has never sounded quite so elegaic, and any doubts that the band can swing are laid to rest in teh exuberant opener, For Nedim. Joseph’s playing throughout is a model of discretion, while Paul Clarvis and Sam Walton add subtle percussive colour. The band’s Prom will be essential listening.

The Financial Times 29.07.11 Andrew Clark

The music of “Yura” begins ever so gently. A series of subtly changing piano chords punctuates a violin line that develops into a folk-tune. The track lasts a mere five minutes and expires with the same stillness as it began. You don’t need to know how or why it was written to be touched by its beauty.

The Gramopone October 2011 Duncan Druce

The gypsies provide something of a connecting motif but perhaps it’s better just to sit back and enjoy the brilliant, imaginative playing, with it’ interesting dialogue between the performance styles of jazz and classical music. Lively pieces like For Nedim and The Pursuit of the Woman with the Feathered Hat go with a tremendous swing…Barley’s own Yura gives off a powerfully melancholic aura. Julian Joseph’s piano playing is outstanding. The Kodaly is wonderfully conceived, and Mullova and Barley give a fine performance, with some truly beautiful quiet passages, plenty of energy and passion, and an attractively light, playful style in the finale. All in all this is a very stimulating programme, performed with flair and finesse.

The Strad September 2011 James Crel

Viktoria Mullova has teamed up with cellist husband Matthew Barley and his jazz-leaning ensemble to deliver an assortment of gypsy-influenced music spanning folk, classical and fusion. An accident waiting to happen, perhaps – but it doesn’t, for a number of reasons. The ensemble is cleverly chosen – Sam Walton’s marimba offers a fresh take on the traditional cimbalom, while Paul Clarvis’s earthy drum kit provides depth and atmosphere. He and pianist Julian Joseph improvise in places, notably when interleaved subtly between the Bartok duos. And Barley’s arrangements seamlessly weave disparate strands and ideas together. Finally it works because Mullova’s playing allows her to traverse this section of repertoire. In the main, hers is a firm, robust but unmannered sound that has a home in both Bartok and the music of French ensemble Bratsch, though she doesc show a deft, light touch when the melodies spiral breathlessly. Barley is well matched to this in the duos, and the end of the second movement of the Kodaly is especially arresting. This is a fine album that understands where stylistic boundaries should be respected or ignored.

The Evening Standard 15.7.11 Simon Broughton

It’s not often you get Youssou N’Dour, Django Reinhardt, Weather Report and Bartok on one disc. But this is an extraordinary project in which violinist Viktoria Mullova is accompanied by the Matthew Barley Ensemble. The French group Bratsch have inspired two of the strongest tracks, Bi Lovengo and Er Nemo Klantz, interlaced with Bartok duos that dance with an earthy swing. Matthew Barley’s improvised music gives the arrangements a spontaneous feel and, amazingly, it all hangs together.

Simon Broughton 27.10.10 Evening Standard (St Lukes concert, November 2010)

It’s a stellar quintet of musicians…Most spectacular is the DuOud piece For Nedim, which is an inspired arrangement of Arabic lute music full of syncopated rhythms. With an ensemble such as this, genres like classical, jazz and world become meaningless, which is exactly the point.

Proms Performance August 18th 2011

www.theartsdesk.com 19.8.11 Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Two great musical off-pisters: violinist Viktoria Mullova and cellist Matthew Barley.
It was crossover at its best. No compromise. Total musicianship. The arrangements (mostly by Barley) helped. The particular colours assembled – cello, violin, piano, marimba, jazz drum kit – melded quite beautifully. Inevitably, each musician excelled in the genre that they are most closely associated with. Mullova was at her best careering around her fingerboard virtuosically, Joseph coolly riffing out quietly subversive bass lines, Barley jamming with style, Walton zipping silkily around his marimba and Clarvis fooling about minimally but with perfect timing on his kit.
The high point for me, however, was when the stage was left to Barley and Mullova and Kodály’s Duo. It’s such a unified, hurtling little double-helix of a work anyway, but in the married couple’s hands it was hard to imagine that it more tightly sprung or the two lines more closely and passionately intertwined. That’s what I call a day in the country.

The Guardian 19.8.11 Guy Dammann

These players are all class acts…Barley’s Yura, composed in memory of Mullova’s father, and inspired by a view of the Siberian Lake Baikal, unfolds like a long, beautiful gaze held over the course of two long and immensely peaceful phrases.

The Independent 24.8.11 Michael Church

Viktoria Mullova and Matthew Barley are at once the least likely musical combination, and also among the most fertile.
She fledged in Moscow as a star violinist before courageously defecting (at the height of the Cold War) to the West, where her immaculate playing earned her the nickname Ice Maiden. Barley is distinguished from other classical cellists through his hang-loose, collaborative approach and his explorations of jazz.
Married life has seen them gradually influencing each other’s style: Mullova’s new CD ‘The Peasant Girl’ – on which she is accompanied by the Matthew Barley Ensemble – formed the basis for the second of these Proms, and shows where their collaboration has now got to. Barley’s arrangements of numbers by Bratsch, John Lewis, and Weather Report’s Joe Zawinul were felicitous, and his elegy to Mullova’s father formed a graceful point of stillness at the centre of the event. The longest work, Kodaly’s ‘Duo, Opus 7’, was rendered with great finesse.

www.musicalcriticism.com 19.8.11 Stephen Graham

…their performance of the Kodaly duo felt gorgeously companionable, and tonally rich too.

The band, which consisted of piano, percussion, and drums, in addition to the frontline violin and cello, played with agility in the faster, chewier pieces (such as Bi Lovengo by Bratsch), and with a sweet lyrical calm in the slower ones (such as the passionate and singing Lewis/Bratsch Django). As befits the style, a palpable freedom drove the performances, with pianist Julian Joseph, particularly, cutting loose on some knotty, compelling solos. The concert built and built in atmosphere, until finally the band really let fly with their last couple of numbers, including the slip-sliding, Taraf de Haidouks-like fun of the seven-beat For Nedim (originally by DuOud).

By this point the crowd were variously tapping their feet, clapping along cheerfully, nodding happily, or simply sitting looking content.
The Peasant Girl in London

“Barley teased soulful eloquence from his cello”

The Times Geoff Brown October 28 2010

Tour of Sweden with The Peasant Girl

“Matthew Barley displayed a great technical brilliance as well as a sensitivity on his cello. His bowing and action-packed improvisations and not least his swinging pizzicatos in the last piece were one of tonight’s highlights”

Al Ginge Sydostrain, Sweden October 2010

Constant Filter CD

This disc was something of a labour of love for Matthew Barley – he recorded it at home on his own equipment after over the years building up a repertoire of pieces by John Metcalfe for electronic cello. It was a steep learning curve: ‘I was engineer, producer, editor, and computer sound-designer – nottomentioncellist,’hewrites in the booklet.
The result is compelling, and at times extraordinary – Metcalfe’s lyrical, contemplative lines are drawn with infinite care, and the immediacy and tenderness of Barley’s performance makes this music addictive.
The organum-like sounds of Tracing the Outline, in which the computer duplicates Barley’s sound a fourth below in places, draw you in with their lush, slowly building textures. Constant Filter, the title track, lays a singing acoustic cello line over hovering electronics to great effect.
The five movements of Kite, for cello and piano ‘with a hint of electronics’, are brief yet lovely, particularly the dream-like opening and closing movements. Lonely Bay – in which each phrase reappears exactly 40 seconds later – is wonderfully contemplative, and Barley uses his fine ear for colour to make every nuance and gesture count.
Metcalfe has achieved the unusual feat of creating electronic music that sounds organic and heartfelt, and in Barley he has a hugely persuasive advocate.

Catherine Nelson The Strad Magazine, October 2010

“Cellist Matthew Barley is a fan of John Metcalfe’s electronically bolstered cello music and masters it impressively”

Ivan Hewitt, Daily Telegraph, July 2010

“Using computerised octave-splitters and delay units, Barley achieves a surprising depth of sound and harmonic richness, particularly on the title-track, where echoing wisps of electronic sound flutter around the cello like butterflies”

Andy Gill, The Independent 4 stars, June 2010

“Barley’s booklet note explains how he decided it was time that he made a recording at home, and gives some idea of the steepness of the learning curve he faced. He seems to have made the ascent with ease: you’d never know it wasn’t the product of some glitzy studio. His playing, of course, is just as accomplished.”

Martin Anderson, International Record Review, July 2010

Residency at Kings Place, London

Matthew Barley was in residence at Kings Place for a few days and I thoroughly enjoyed the two evenings I attended . He is an exemplary cellist, his mind seemingly as focussed as his tone, wheterh he is dispatching Beethoven’s last two sonatas (assisted by the superb Kit Armstrong) with the appropriate blend of rigorous Classicism, inwardness and gruffness, or presenting newer pieces by Armstrong and the almost equally young Misha Mullov-Abbado.

Barley and tabla player Sanju Sahai were joined by Adrian Freedman on shakuhachi (Japanese flute) and hang drummer Ravid Goldschmidt in a recital of many improvised beauties – the hang, a wondrous instrument, was new to me. Schubert’s C major Quintet with the Navarra Quartet began prosaically and ended tiredly but made good points in between, and Barley’s contribution was impeccable. A part-improvised, part-structured concert with eleven young string players worked well, but the free-association improvisation session with quintet Between The Note was just getting going when they had to stop. Barley shoud be given the run of the place again.

Tully Potter, The Strad, December 2009

The Dance of the Three Legged Elephants CD

Latin-blues-chamber-avant-improv-salon-tango? Obviously a jazz disc then. This kind of potpourri approach to generic convention usually fails because few musicians have a real grasp of a sufficiently wide range of musical ideas. But here’s Barley and Joseph, two exceptions who prove the rule. This set of originals, improvisations and takes on pieces by everyone from Jobim to Ravel are informed, inventive and defy all predictions as to what’s coming next. The title track, evolving from a wonky blues riff into a kind of evocation of Steve Reich jamming with McCoy Tyner at the Penguin Cafe, is outstanding.

Roger Thomas, BBC Music Magazine, January 2010

I enjoyed it so much that it just had to be my Recording of the Month…it beguiles and overwhelms alternately – sometimes simultaneously…
Both performers combine an interest in classical music and jazz improvisation, ‘crossover’ music in the truest sense of the word, a term often misapplied to saccharin middle-of-the-road compositions. There’s nothing bland about the programme here – instead of the lowest common denominator, this recording presents the highest common factor.

If Castellain Sunshine is sunlight through clouds, the Dance of the Three Legged Elephants is a lively form of the blues; the effect is almost hypnotic and it forms a very worthwhile centre-piece to the programme. At times it’s almost as urgent as Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and as much fun as Saint-Saëns’ Carnaval des Animaux.
John McLaughlin’s Miles Beyond is a tribute to Miles Davis by a performer who appeared with him in the 1970s. This was for me almost as much a highlight of the CD as the three Joseph compositions.

Barley and Joseph round off the CD with another of their improvisations, Improvisation #2. I’m not even going to try to describe this wonderful piece, except to say that it was the perfect end to a very enjoyable recording and that it left me wishing for more. They couldn’t have crammed much more on, at over 72 minutes – so when will their next CD be appearing? In fact, there is an eleventh, bonus track unacknowledged on my review copy; I’ll leave you to discover the surprise for yourself

Brian Wilson MusicWeb International October 2009

Matthew Barley/Julian Joseph
Kings Place, London

John Fordham
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 27 September 2009

Cello virtuoso Matthew Barley’s willingness to try anything was what drove his run at London’s Kings Place: a week embracing everything from Schubert and Bach to improv, and including two gigs with his regular collaborator, jazz pianist Julian Joseph.
The title of Barley’s series, Xtreme Cello, was perhaps a more accurate description of the whole sweep of the week than the particular hum of this elegantly melodic conversation. Here, the cellist’s shimmering bowed sounds and bass-vamp pizzicatos stroked and chased Joseph’s grooving chord patterns, double-time jazz variations and pushing swing. The two began with an improvised exchange of dark piano chords against softly whistling cello squeals – an episode that turned into the ecstatic rising melody and stamping pulse of John McLaughlin’s 1970s Mahavishnu Orchestra classic, Resolution.
Barley and Joseph then adapted Ravel’s violin/piano duet Pièce en Forme de Habanera, stretching out from a faithful account of the Spanish-tinged original into a heated interchange of deep, eddying cello chords and urgent, flamenco-like piano figures. Joseph’s own slyly displaced blues, Dance of the Three Legged Elephants (the title track of the pair’s upcoming album), signalled the full-on release of the pianist’s formidable fast-postbop powers against Barley’s steady bowed beat and string-whacking percussion.
Used to Be a Cha Cha, another fast piece of densencounterpoint, brought long-lined variations from Barley that recalled country/jazz violinist Jerry Goodman’s old solos with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The late-show audience was modest, but they made enough noise to fill the hall.

“one of classical music’s leading mould-breakers”

Michael Church The Independent 29th September 2008

Recital with Rohan de Saram for Spitalfields Festival, London

“This was a brilliantly conceived programme, underlining how all music stems from improvisation….there were two pieces by John Metcalfe, Barley bringing panache to Red!Gold!, a quasi-folk, minimalist work with an electronic shadow, and glorious sound to the languid Constant Filter.”

Annette Morreau The Independent 7th June 2007

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra ****

CITY HALLS, GLASGOW

FIFTY years ago today, William Walton’s idiosyncratic cello concerto was given its British premiere, making it an apt choice for yesterday’s Discovering Music concert with the BBC SSO. Presenter and conductor Charles Hazlewood took the podium to lead us through “three different approaches to a concerto in three movements”.
Illuminating their discussion with anecdotes from the Walton’s life and work, Hazlewood and the brilliant young cellist Matthew Barley talked through Walton’s creation as it oscillated between major and minor – much like the composer’s own life.
But however enlightening the chat, it was the actual playing of the piece at the end which spoke most clearly. Barley excelled in this moody, broody piece, with its ethereal, otherworldly sound world: hypnotic in the first movement, agitated in the turbulent second and virtuosic in the third.

Sarah Urwin Jones – The Scotsman – 13th February 2007

ON THE ROAD – NORWICH ARTS CENTRE

“Pushing the boundaries of the classical music genre, cellist Matthew Barley uses improvisations and cultural themes to offer a performance of pure music. Barley aims to do away with the all to freely used labels, delve back into history and do what composers and curious artists have done for centuries – create innovative sound.
Playing to a focused and revering audience he performed a dynamic recital on the cello, often backed with exciting and quirky electronic sounds from the computer, and established a warm rapport with the audience before each half of the set, giving us an informal introductions to each composition to follow.
His music has no geographical, social or stylistic boundaries, incorporating improvisations on hypnotic Syrian folk music, Gregorian Chants and four centuries of classical music.
Matthew says: “As a classical musician I have always been bothered by a feeling that I live and work in something of a kind of bubble – and that classical music has some kind of purity that needs protecting. I completely disagree with this idea. Classical music is only a label and this vast body of work covering centuries and countless countries seems to me to be a very open landscape.”
Charismatic, dynamic and breathtakingly talented, Matthew Barley is a young man with passion for his music and who is not afraid to experiment against the norm, resulting in completely ground-breaking musicianship.”

Waveney Advertiser 17th November 2006

“This superb cellist breaks the mould of the solo recital with a repertoire that mixes classical and non- classical, together with electronics and improvisation. 

He began with an improvisation on three themes: a Syrian Orthodox chant, a Gregorian chant and a Syrian folk song in which he created hauntingly beautiful music to the accompaniment of an electronic pedal bass.

The virtuoso repertoire which followed demonstrated the breadth of his technique and style. 

First, two works of the baroque: a Ricercar by Domico Gabrieli and Bach’s third suite for solo cello. Both were played with superb period style. Then, the first movement of Kodaly’s fiery solo sonata with its origins in Hungarian folk music, and a master-ful account of Britten’s Third Cello Suite, based on Russian folk tunes.

With the last two works we entered the electronic age. In John Metcalfe’s contemplative Constant Filter the cello plays a slow lament with subtle electronic accompaniment; in Final Tracks, with less subtle electronics by D J Bee, the cello reminisces on the themes of the opening work.

In all this varied music, Barley reached right to the heart of every work he performed.”
Frank Cliff Norfolk Eastern Daily Press 17th November 2006

ON THE ROAD – SHEFFIELD CRUCIBLE STUDIO

“You couldn’t move for cellos and cellists, the latter contributing to a full house to hear a cello and cellist, with two bows and some electronic tools, making music with mesmeric compulsion.
The Sheffield born-and-bred musician is one of the world’s great cellists, pure and simple. You only had to listen to his extraordinary playing to appreciate the indisputable fact. What a role model for the many young people, budding cellists among them, who were present! Some didn’t have the attention span for the third cello suites by Bach and Britten and first movement of Kodaly’s solo sonata but they fell on older ears magnificently, ‘insisting’ you listen. The Bach had wonderful fluidity, variety of nuance and shaded dynamics, the Britten remarkable drawing power and the potently-shaped Kodaly left no doubters about its Magyar origins without the evidence being literal, and all with ardent feel for the music.
It was fascinating to see how loosely he held the bow and, with the one he used for Bach and a cleanly-articulated Ricercat No 6 by Domenico Gabrielli, where he held it – a third of the way in!
The electronics came into play as a drone backing an improvisation on ancient Syrian folk themes and chant and Gregorian Chant, a quite hypnotic experience, and the two new cello/electronics works made their mark by virtue of integrity. Some of the sound effects were astonishing, although whether they and an often timeless feel could be found by a cellist of lesser technical ability is doubtful.”

Bernard Lee Sheffield Telegraph 26th November 2006

ON THE ROAD – JACQUELINE DU PRE MUSIC BUILDING, OXFORD

“The things Matthew Barley does to a cello are possibly wrong (at least if you’re the sort of classical music lover who likes it stiff, prim and unmixed with other kinds of music) but they feel so right it’s a revelation. As part of his 30-date “On the Road” nationwide tour – concerts in the evenings, workshops in schools and nursing homes in the daytime – he played a storming show to a full house at the Jacqueline Du Pré Building last night. 

Barley clearly loves what he does. He often appears lost in the music. He plays wildly and passionately, but you never feel he’s lost control. The show, conceived as a journey from the earliest written melodies to modern electronic music, opened with improvisation influenced by Syrian folk music and Gregorian chant. We also heard a gypsy music-inspired piece by Kodály full of surprising twists and turns, and a Bach suite – giving an amazing intensity to music which in less skilled hands can sound mechanical. In the second half, after a suite by Britten, came two pieces with electronic accompaniment built up from backing tracks which Barley layered upon each other live on stage using foot pedals. Constant Filter was a spacious, richly textured piece with synthesiser tracks by John Metcalfe over which Barley played simple, beautiful musical phrases. The show closed with Vanishing Tracks, another improvisation based on the same music as the opener, but this time with beats, bass lines and lush electronic arrangements by dance and ambient producer DJ Bee. The backing tracks mixed and built in intensity, Barley’s music building with it until by the end he was what can only be described as rocking out. 

There was humour as well as passion. A watch beeped twice somewhere in the audience near the start of the first piece with electronic backing tracks, and Barley (with a huge grin) incorporated the beeps into his improvisation, with his fingers as high as they would go on the top string. As a fan of electronic music I worried that the rest of the audience might find him too unconventional, but their rapturous applause (three curtain calls!) proved otherwise. For me, and it seemed for many others, this evening was a refreshing and joyous reminder of what classical music can be if it’s played with love and an open mind.”

Deirdre Ruane Oxford Daily Information 27th November 2006


ON THE ROAD – FOREST CAFE, EDINBURGH

“COURAGE is a word that is often bandied about pretentiously by artists, but you’d not hesitate to apply it to cellist Matthew Barley. Rather than remain in comfy concert halls, he has taken his virtuosity on the road, with a programme of solo pieces that attempts nothing less than a history of music and visits schools, galleries and prisons as well as arts centres and, yes, concert halls. This was, he confessed, his first gig in a cafe. It was crammed to the door, and he silenced both the chattering and some heckling (if not the catering machinery and an inevitable mobile phone) with his playing.
His programme is intended to be educative, but broadly rather than specifically, running from his own improvisations on Syrian folk tunes and Gregorian chant to work with electronics using samples provided by a DJ collaborator. Gabrielli, Bach, Zoltan Kodaly, and Benjamin Britten were stops along the way, all sensationally played. Barley’s bowing technique is phenomenally expressive, whether with baroque or modern implement, and his programme, as much a showcase as the “journey in sound” he announced, did, however, carefully cross-refer throughout so that echoes of that first improvisation reappeared in his self-composed closer.
The other new work, John Metcalfe’s Constant Filter, was a deeply moving meditation on death for cello and electronics, and followed quite as well as he hoped from Britten’s expansion on Russian Orthodox funeral liturgy. None of this required any more explanation than he gave, but it certainly illustrated that classical musicians who are brave enough to go looking for an audience may well be lucky enough to find one.”

Keith Bruce Glasgow Herald 10th November 2006

ON THE ROAD – ST GEORGES BRISTOL


“DELEGATION is not a word that looms large in Matthew Barley’s vocabulary. In addition to playing solo cello, he created most of the backing music, was his own sound engineer and wrote the programme notes.

In his major role as soloist, he displayed, both in his improvisation on traditional themes and in Bach’s Suite No 3 in C, a wonderful technique and an instinctive feel for the moods of the music.

This was shown as he moved from the merry tripping sounds in the Bach to the groaning intensity of the first movement of Zoltan Kodaly’s Sonata OP 8.

Collaborations with John Metcalfe and D J Bee took Matthew away from classical cello music, allowing him to show his command of electronic sounds.

Whatever your preference, this was an evening to relish.”

Gerry Parker Bristol Evening Post 13th November 2006

ON THE ROAD – STROUD SUBSCRIPTIONS ROOMS


“MORE musicians should think like cellist Matthew Barley. His current month-long tour On The Road aims to dissolve the mystique surrounding music labelled ‘classical’ and encourage people to appreciate it simply as music. The programme is beautifully conceived, removing barriers between different musical genres to provide an accessible, quirky recital. Mixing everything from Gregorian chant to electronic improvisation during his performance, Barley provided an exhilaratingly original experience.
Beginning with an explanation of the origins of early forms of music, he opened with a moving and calming improvisation influenced by Syrian folk music and Gregorian chant. It showcased both his technical ability and his ability to give ‘traditional’ music modern appeal. His accomplished performance of JS Bach’s Suite No. 3 in C again revealed the strength with which Barley plays while conveying the intelligence and musical layering for which Bach is known. It was extremely well received by even the youngest members of an enthralled audience.
The second half of the performance offered a more personal, unusual experience. Accompanied by a series of pre-recorded electronic arrangements, he performed another improvised arrangement, creating a haunting, moving piece revealing musical passion and the ability to judge the mood in the hall.
The appeal of Barley’s music lies in his skill and the widening of the instrument’s scope but also his ability to communicate with a varied audience, the breadth of musical genres his work sweeps through ensures that anyone can take something from his performances. I left uplifted.”

Rebecca Conway Stroud News and Journal 9th November 2006

“This recital is full of powerful music played with passion and skill.”
Barry Witherden, Gramophone, March 2006
CD Reminding (Quartz QTZ 2032)

“Part’s Fratres (a set of variations on a six-bar theme) will be familiar to most readers, but rarely has its combination of frantic activity and sublime stillness been so arrestingly encompassed as by Barley, whose virtuoso control at all dynamic levels just has to be heard to be believed. Finally, the Estonian Mati Kuulberg, whose hauntingly nostalgic Meenutus (‘Reminding’) gave this remarkable album its title. As throughout the entire recital, Barley plays with such extraordinary concentration and devotion that the listener cannot help but become immersed in its world of wistful, claustrophobic intensity. Wonderfully well played and engineered (Chris Craker and Simon Haram), this will reward the inquisitive collector many times over.”
Julian Haylock, International Record Review, December 2005
CD Reminding (Quartz QTZ 2032)

“Barley brought its evocation of an Azeri spike-fiddle alive with myriad bow colourings and a sure sense of its long narrative line. Barley was even more eloquent when playing from memory in Schnittke’s First Sonata. No parody and tricksiness here, but a direct and expressive language, raised by Barley to an alarming heat at the climax of the second movement before the slow death of the third. More of the same would have been welcome.”

Peter Quantrill, The Strad, December 2005
Wigmore Hall Recital with Stephen De Pledge, 27 September 2005

“…a fascinating journey through the recent cello music of Russia and the former Soviet Union. There are some familiar landmarks, such as Schnittke’s gripping first sonata, as well as some exciting trips off the beaten track….this is an excellent recital, quirky and stunningly well played.”
Warwick Thompson, Metro, 24 October 2005
CD Reminding (Quartz QTZ 2032)

“A Magnificent, innovative cellist”

Peter Wolf, Musical Pointers, 3 October 2005
Wigmore Hall Recital with Stephen De Pledge, 27 September 2005

“Savagely played, and savagely appealing….I wish more people would think about music the way Matthew Barley does. …Barley found the right tonal quality for each modulation [in Arvo Pärt’s Fratres]…Barley and De Pledge somehow managed to make the most energetic climaxes [in Franghis Ali Zadeh’s Habil-Sajahy] sound like the headiest excesses of Vivaldi”
Neil Fisher, The Times (London), 3 October 2005
Wigmore Hall Recital with Stephen De Pledge, 27 September 2005

“This supremely gifted Sheffield-born cellist has claims to being equal to any in the UK and, when he plays some of the works he did here, he invokes the best in the world – he can live with them!
…Beethoven’s Fifth Cello Sonata got a performance of vibrancy and tremendous vigour, the adventuresome slow movement with lean, forward tone from the cello.
Nothing trifling about Barley’s arrangement of Shostakovich’s Cheryomushki which began innocently enough but got more complex and faster as it developed into a wild dance – simply stunning!”

Bernard Lee, Sheffield Telegraph, 18 March 2005
Recital with Stephen De Pledge, Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, 17 March 2005

“…with a communicative artist of Barley’s type, establishing a warm rapport with an audience becomes automatic. He introduced each piece with clarity and in a wittily conscise manner. What was common to both Bach suites was the excellence in performance, expressive interpretation, technical prowess and the way the musicial architecture of both was so clearly defined. The end result was a feeling of exhiliration.”
Albert G Storace, The Times of Malta, June 12 2004
Solo recital Bir Mifta Chapel, Malta, June 10 2004

“Miraculous moments abounded. The beautiful smiling face of a young Chinese girl musician drawing ravishing homage from the orchestra and cellist Matthew Barley. This life enhancing piece owed much to the superlative cello playing of Barley”
John Button, Dominion Post (NZ), 22 March 2004
Tan Dun: “The Map”, concerto for cello, video and orchestra; NZSO/Dun; 20 March 2004

“Stunning cello – words cannot do justice to the strength and effect of his playing”
Garth Wilshere, Capital Times (NZ), 24 March 2004
Tan Dun: “The Map”, concerto for cello, video and orchestra; NZSO/Dun; 20 March 2004

“Eloquent solo cello”
William Bart, NZ Herald, 24 March 2004
Tan Dun: “The Map”, concerto for cello, video and orchestra; NZSO/Dun; 20 March 2004

“This was brilliant playing, fully in baroque style, announcing to all that here was a cellist to reckon with.”
John Button, Dominion Post (New Zealand), 17 March 2004
Solo recital, New Zealand Festival (Wellington), March 2004

“Matthew Barley is a superb cellist, and his ideas on concerts, teaching and the widest possible range in which his instrument can be played, reveals a musician who, while his ideas are somewhat lateral, can clearly be nothing but musical. His is a rare talent.”
John Button, Dominion Post (New Zealand), 17 March 2004
Residency, New Zealand Festival, March 2004

“This was no ordinary recital. With good time-sharing, coordination and cooperation, Matthew Barley and the Bangash brothers cooked up a musical fare that kept listeners engrossed for an hour and 53 minutes without a dull moment. The skill of Matthew Barley in his own sphere is internationally acknowledged, but the way he followed the Bangash leads and gave them leads to follow when his turn came could be the envy of any Indian violinist. …the Bangash-Barley venture could be called definitely daring. But the audience liked it and the house was full till the end.”
Nilaksha Gupta, The Calcutta Telegraph, 2 January 2004
Recital with Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash (sarod), Calcutta 22 December 2003

“A bold and searching cross-cultural experiment between a Western classical cellist and three top exponents of the sarod. Forty minutes of majestic music.”
Songlines Magazine “Best Albums of 2003”, January/February 2004
CD ‘Strings Attached: Sarod and Cello’ (Navras, NRCD 6004)
Matthew Barley, Amman Ali Bangash, Ayaan Ali Bangash with special appearance by Sarod Maestro Amjad Ali Khan

“… the resulting performances really do thrill… The six-cello arrangement of Britten’s wonderful Corpus Christi Carol is truly sublime, with its rich, rewarding textures and melting chromaticisms…. [Part's Fratres] is performed with warmth and soul-stirring passion, Stanford’s The Bluebird is sweet and sumptuous, and the palate-cleansing Bach chorales are sensitively and beautifully drawn… Barley’s brilliantly inventive approach – not to mention his sheer technical flair – makes this disc well worth a listen.”
Catherine Nelson, The Strad, December 2003
CD ‘The Silver Swan’ (BlackBox CDBBM1068)

“The result is a genuine expansion in both instruments’ scope – a majestic meeting of minds.”
Top of the World Editorial Choice, Songlines Magazine, November 2003
CD ‘Strings Attached: Sarod and Cello’ (Navras, NRCD 6004)
Matthew Barley, Amman Ali Bangash, Ayaan Ali Bangash with special appearance by Sarod Maestro Amjad Ali Khan

“It could have been a project that so easily misfired, but I think it works beautifully.”
Nick Bailey, Classic FM Magazine, November 2003
CD ‘The Silver Swan’ (BlackBox CDBBM1068

“Barley makes playing along to his own multi-tracked backing with organic rubatos and tempo changes look deceptively easy. The technique and technology is formidable, but more important the sound world he creates is beautiful with a purity of tone that comes from the same player playing all the voice. …in a repertoire that ranges from medieval to contemporary there’s fiery virtuosity as well.”
Simon Broughton, October 2003
Solo recital, Union Chapel London, 25th September 2003

“[Matthew Barley’s] playing and the recording are both excellent. …Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, is brilliantly conceived for the medium.”
Duncan Druce, Gramophone, September 2003
CD ‘The Silver Swan’ (BlackBox CDBBM1068)

“Matthew Barley is a formidable musician, his creativity showing to the full in Carl Vine’s Inner World for CD and cello. Astounding sampled cello sounds interacted with live rhythmic excitement and breathtaking technicalities.”
Maggie Cotton, Birmingham Post, 29 September 2003
Recital ‘The Silver Swan’ at the CBSO Centre, Birmingham, 27th September 2003

“A disc which might at first glance appear gimmicky, proves in fact one of immense dignity and communication. Matthew Barley reveals himself to possess an acute, sensitive ear and a genuine feel for balance and texture. Technical matters of synchronization and ambience are dealt with so successfully that the listener can disregard them, concentrating instead on the moving way these offerings are delivered…Purcell’s Dido’s Lament and a stunning version of Stanford’s The Bluebird are among other features, and this remarkable release ends with the searing simplicity of Pablo Casals’ favourite encore, the Song of the Birds.”
Chris Morley, Birmingham Post, 27 September 2003
CD ‘The Silver Swan’ (BlackBox CDBBM1068

“The sonorous virtual ensemble of many cellos is luxurious, and the music is eclectic… …this disc has Dido’s lament and Bizet’s Romance from the Pearl Fishers as you’ve never heard them before.”
The Scotsman, 26 September 2003
CD ‘The Silver Swan’ (BlackBox CDBBM1068)

“From the outset you know that Barley understands music. He performs it with such an air of ease, an ease that is bound to intensity. Tonight’s repertoire was also a mixed bag with the majority of works coming from Barley’s album ‘The Silver Swan’. Barley’s control and execution of his melodies whether they be of three notes or thirty notes is done with beauty and precision. The Corpus Christi Carol by Benjamin Britten allowed Barley to wear his heart on his sleeve. The basic melody of this piece, which moves in gentle variations, was played truly by a master. Barley’s interpretation is exciting even when he is playing one note. Barley’s performance stunned the small but enthusiastic crowd as he went through every emotion allowed. A performer who is destined to go far. An understatement in fact. If you haven’t been able to see Matthew Barley then at least listen to the CD ‘The Silver Swan’ out now.”
Andrew MacKay, Soungenerator.com, 26th September 2003
Recital ‘The Silver Swan’ at the London Union Chapel, 25 September 2003

“Over a recording run from a laptop, Barley gave a deeply felt performance including Stanford, Stravinsky and Britten. His buoyant rendition of Bach’s 3rd solo suite in C# had freshness and agility. …The selection makes the most of the emotive potential of the cello in the hands of such a responsive performer.”
Phyllis Martin, The Scotsman, 23 September 2003
Recital ‘The Silver Swan’, Edinburgh Fruitmarket Gallery, 22 September 2003

“Ravi Shankar and Yehudi Menuhin made a celebrated fusion album, East Meets West, in 1967. It was widely assumed that Menuhin was improvising with Shankar, but he was playing a composed piece. Matthew Barley 35 years on, is a classical cellist who really can improvise with the masters. On the Indian side is Amjad Ali Khan and his two sons, Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash, all players of the lean, muscular sarod, one of North India’s most important plucked instruments. The contrasting textures of these live recordings from the Festival Hall and a concert in Delhi blend beautifully – lush, arch-like cello melodies sit alongside decorative filigree on the sarod. Audibly inspired, the players pick up one another’s phrases and reinterpret them in their own way to end in dazzling fireworks. This is a voyage of discovery for both players and listeners.”
Simon Broughton, Evening Standard, 16 September 2003
CD ‘Strings Attached: Sarod and Cello’ (Navras, NRCD 6004)
Matthew Barley, Amman Ali Bangash, Ayaan Ali Bangash with special appearance by Sarod Maestro Amjad Ali Khan

“…you sense all the players striving for common ground – and triumphally finding it… Our colloquial adjective ‘pukka’ is borrowed from the Hindi word pakka, meaning ‘mature’ or ‘perfected’ when applied to musicians. Matthew Barley should relax, because this is a very pukka CD.”
Michael Church, The Independent, 05 September 2003
CD ‘Strings Attached: Sarod and Cello’ (Navras, NRCD 6004)
Matthew Barley, Amman Ali Bangash, Ayaan Ali Bangash with special appearance by Sarod Maestro Amjad Ali Khan

“Matthew Barley’s The Silver Swan is an absolute gem. Unique, exquisitely arranged, performed, recorded and produced. …a sonic dreamscape… Barley has re-invented the cello as we know it. The sonic range, the nuances that he creates and the dynamic variation are quite extraordinary. (…) The tonal quality and seductive performance is alive and runs through your veins as you listen. (…) His ability to create a continuous scene of beauty on this CD is admirable.”
Andrew MacKay, Soungenerator.com, 1st September 2003
CD ‘The Silver Swan’ (BlackBox CDBBM1068)

“If you think this is an ordinary solo cello disc, think again. Matthew Barley’s first foray on a disc for Black Box Music is a brilliantly imaginative set of self-penned arrangements of music ranging from Bach and Albinoni to Stanford, Britten and Pärt.”
Muso Magazine, Aug/Sept 2003
CD ‘The Silver Swan’ (BlackBox CDBBM1068)

“Cool new music by a hyper-cool combo.”
Michael Church, London Evening Standard / Metro Life, 1-7 August 2003
Concert with Between the Notes, City of London Festival (Spitz Club), 9th August 2003

“Matthew Barley joins, answering phrases played by the Sarod, mimicking, reflecting and enchanting. His solo work is a mixture of western classical and Indian classical, merging the two in an inventive and exciting fusion. His technical abilities are top league, his passion and emotional approach to the melodic structure of the pieces is sublime. (…) The performance of these three young men has to be one of the best concert performances that I have seen. (…) A power packed mix of virtuosity, frenetic and passionate percussion, lilting melodies from both cello and Sarod alike and a generally awesome display of musicianship. (…) This is the beauty and something that defines Indian classical music. One must know the raags but also have the ability to know your instrument inside out. To be able to answer and imitate, repeat and develop a phrase or melody instantly. You don’t find this on the western classical stage. You do in jazz and in some other genres but this is improvisation at its best.”
Soundgenerator.com, September 2002
London Royal Festival Hall: Concert with Amjad Ali Khan (Sarod),
Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash – 27 September 2002

“…most exciting was a passionate, free-wheeling account of Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello, Barley reminded us that he’s a superb cellist in his own right”
The Strad Magazine, May 2001
London Barbican Hall, ‘Through the Looking Glass’, 17 February 2001
(with Viktoria Mullova)

“Matthew Barley stepped into the metaphorical shoes of an indisposed soloist as though this was a comfy old pair he’d been loafing around in for years. The flamboyance of his interpretation was of a sort that could only be possible where underpinned by a rich technical resource – and precisely this could be said, too, of the delicacy of this tone.”
The Glasgow Herald, 15 December 2000
Tchaikovsky Roccoco Variations, Haydn Concerto in C, Bruch Kol Nidrei
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Alsop (December 2000)

“Matthew Barley played Haydn’s C major cello concerto with agility… the Kol Nidrei showed off the potential of his commanding soulful cello sound.”
The Scotsman, 18 December 2000
Tchaikovsky Roccoco Variations, Haydn Concerto in C, Bruch Kol Nidrei
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Alsop (December 2000)

“Matthew Barley’s approach [to the meditative Bruch] stayed on the right side of soulfulness. Without ever overdoing the music’s quiet rapture, he tellingly registered its presence.”
The Glasgow Herald, 18 December 2000
Tchaikovsky Roccoco Variations, Haydn Concerto in C, Bruch Kol Nidrei
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Alsop (December 2000)

“Barley’s confident and relaxed demeanor was perfect for Bach. His fluid approach embraced the improvisatory qualities of the preludes.”
The Strad Magazine, February 2000
London Jazz Festival 2000, London Purcell Room

“Barley was intense, his solos were rigorous and rich.. It’s all about generosity and fun.”
The Guardian, November 1999

“This was a fine, exciting and original piece of percussive playing…. The two Bach suites were admirably played with great attention to dynamics and expression – a performance that held a paced audience spellbound. These was an obvious musical chemistry between the two.. it made one yearn to hear more.”
The Eastern Daily Press, October 1999

“I found the performance of Between The Notes at Lichfield Cathedral quite wonderful – there is a wonderful sense of mingled passion, enthusiasm and informality in the group’s performance, and the new music created by the group gave a powerful context to Matthew Barley’s performance of the Bach cello suites. The audience was swept along by the warmth of the group -–the memory of a Lichfield audience enthusiastically twanging the thumb pianos supplied by the group is something that will stay with me forever.”
Serious, Lichfield Festival 1998

“One of the most talented young cellists I’ve ever heard!”
Leonard Bernstein, 1986

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