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.