Untethered reveries: two-disc set explores shimmering soundworld of Christopher Bailey

To listen to Glimmering Webs, a two-disc odyssey through the piano works of Christopher Bailey, is to experience a music firmly grounded in tradition, but which uses that tradition as a starting-point from which to explore the sound of the instrument in a scintillating sound-garden.


This is most readily apparent in the neo-Classical Piano Sonata, which offers flashes of Haydn glimpsed through the prismatic, shifting textures. It’s in the handling of texture that Bailey most readily tramples Classicism, mercurially changing between lyrical figures, block chords, and Ligeti-style flourishes in a restless exploration of all that the piano can achieve. The piece is faultlessly executed in this recording by Jacob Rhodebeck.


Balancing this usurping of traditional form is the shimmering colour of Meditation III, which unfurls like an untethered reverie. Bailey demonstrates a deft comic side, too, in the sardonic Waltz (in Seventeen-Tone divisions of the Octave) and Ditty (in Nineteen-Tone divisions of the Octave), which are even more manic Satie than Satie himself.


The unfolding process governing the Dancing Sylvan Denizens, allied with the use of just intonation, offers a Terry Riley-esque take on minimalism, yet one that is more focused than Riley’s quasi-extemporary flights of fancy, underpinned as always by a light-footed rhythmic sense,


Overall, the two-disc set offers a full realisation of the myriad compositional approaches that inform Bailey’s music: traditional, playful, sometimes process-driven, yet sure-footed and always brimming with colour. Glimmering Webs is released on the New Focus Recordings label; more details can be found here.


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