> Barry MILLS Summer Waves [JW]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Barry MILLS (b 1949)
Summer Waves

Saxophone Sketches
Saxophone Quartet
The Wind and the Trees
Duo for Flute and Clarinet
Guitar Quartet
Trio for Flute, Viola and Guitar
Harp Sketches
Trio for Flute, Viola and Harp

Tony Sions, alto saxophone
Philip Edwards, B flat clarinet
Charlotte Munro, flute
The English Guitar Quartet
Alison Back, flute
Peter Sulski, viola
Paul Gregory, guitar
Hugh Webb, harp
Recorded All Saints, Eastbourne between 1993-1996
CLAUDIO CC 5153-2 [71.31]

Barry Mills was born in Plymouth in 1949. He studied composition with Colin Matthews and now works as a Brighton postman, composing in the afternoon. His imaginative nature-inspired music on this disc finds its medium in diverse settings, ranging from solo instruments (saxophone, harp) to quartets for guitars and saxophones.

Pictorialism in the Saxophone Sketches deftly delineates the autumnal fall of a leaf and some chilly overblowing presages winter. In the Saxophone Quartet we can hear the restrained, colouristic, essentially tonal but angular writing of the first movement, Morning Song and in the following movement the soprano saxophone lends a ghostly patina to the evocative Night Winds. Mills exploits the b flat clarinet by pitch-bending and flutter-tonguing in The Wind and the Trees, a solo for Philip Edwards, whereas in the succeeding Duo for Flute and Clarinet elliptical tonal contrasts and blends are fully explored.

The impress of the excellent Guitar Quartet is consonant with Mills’ avowedly poignant appreciation of nature in its widest sense - it is impressionistic, reflective, refractive and subtle. Moving with the Wind, the middle movement, with its plucked strings is especially attractive as are the thrummed sonorities of In Deep Night, the last movement. The cogent and well-argued trios are concrete examples of Mills’ narrative gifts – with their moments of occasional heightened expressivity – and he is notably successful in his viola writing, where he pursues extremes of register for valid musical reasons, never resorting to comfortable and generic gestures.

The performances are more than merely dedicated and the sound is perfectly adequate. A welcome disc.

Jonathan Woolf

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