…Larry Goves explores the idea of secular prayer and the devotional in music in a beautifully-constructed piece. Strings and trombone are on one side, cello, violin, flute and clarinet on the other. The music seems to sway between them, making the room roll like a tall ship in a swell to the beam. In the second movement the music is decorous before being sandpapered aside by a grating note. It’s quietly done, but you don’t half feel the emotional wrench. We’re promised a ritual element, and each member of the ensemble lights a candle on their music stand before they start playing. A little later, the players on the stage right start wrapping strings around the strings of their instruments before, suddenly, their candles and lights are snuffed out. We’re left with a solitary flame and violin, before darkness. I’d love to know the notation for all that strikingly subtle piece.
Luke Turner, The Quietus, 28/03/2015
Much the most ambitious piece in their programme was the brand-new Devotions from British composer Larry Goves, which pit three groups of instruments against each other in a series of elaborate ceremonials. These began vigorously but became increasingly quiet. As the groups started to merge musically into each other, darkness fell, and candles were lit. One had a sense of a mystery being invoked.
Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph, 23/11/2014
A kaleidoscopic use of instrumental colour is the foundation of Larry Goves’ surprising and beautifully written music. Only one of the three pieces on this album includes electronics, but all of them demonstrate the composer’s ear for strange, quasi-digital sounds.
Written for the London Sinfonietta, Trends in Personal Relationships explores the notion of ‘romantic’ music. Snake-hipped, microtonal melodies writhe, sigh and occasionally pump away rhythmically, much as one might expect from a piece with an opening movement entitled Threesome. Halos of harp and percussion give the music a luminous shimmer, like an inbuilt reverb.
the terminus wreck is a tribute to both the elliptical poetry of Paul Celan and the monolithic cello solos by Xenakis, Nomos Alpha and Kottos. Cellist Oliver Coates performs it with nuance and fire, tuning his instrument down into a sepulchral register for the haunting final minutes.
Things that are blue, things that are white and things that are black takes the piano concerto on a surreal ride. Adventurous soloist Sarah Nicolls moves between digital piano, prepared piano and ‘real’ piano, alongside a top-heavy, violin-biased orchestra. It’s a vibrant, episodic journey with a cataclysmic finale of cascading noise. Unfortunately, this slightly distant (live) recording doesn’t quite do justice to the details of Goves’ vivid landscape.
Leo Chadburn, Sinfini Music, 07/11/2014
Although his House of Bedlam collective was behind the notable album Talking Microtonal Blues (1/14), this is the first disc to be devoted to Larry Goves. Cardiff-born (in 1980) and resident in London, Goves brings a singular perspective to orthodox formal conceptions and nominally everyday occurrences. Not least Trends in personal relationships (2012), a suite whose movement titles conceal a wealth of unlikely events, such as the fractious collisions of ‘Benign violations’ and the ultimately enervated rounds of ‘Exhausted English landscapes’. More focused in its outward trajectory, the terminus wreck (2008) features unaccompanied cello in music that ranges from the plaintively lyrical, via the cumulatively aggressive, to the inwardly communing final movement – its inspiration in Paul Celan yielding an expression the more disturbing for its understatement, at least as eloquently rendered here by Oliver Coates.
Much the longest piece is Things that are… (2010), which is a piano concerto not merely in name but also in those contrasts that serve to instil an audible continuity between and across its movements as a whole. Despite (or because of?) the timbral disparities between the piano, with sampled and prepared enhancements, and an ensemble whose strings comprise at least 16 violins but one each of viola and double bass, the interplay is by no means removed from conventional practice – whether in the powerful underlying momentum of ‘blue’, alternation of soulfulness and skittishness in ‘white’ or skewed rhetoric of ‘black’, with its deftest of non-resolutions. An eventful and gripping work, consummately well realised by Sarah Nicolls.
Hopefully the other two pieces of this sequence inspired by Paul Auster’s novel The New York Trilogy will find their way on to disc in due course. For now, the present release bolsters Goves’s standing on the new music scene – and in no small measure.
Gramophone Magazine, Richard Whitehouse, 09/2014
British composer Larry Goves (born 1980) turns real life – internet dating, threesomes and the like – into diverse, often sparky music in his Trends in Personal Relationships, a five-movement piece for large ensemble performed by the London Sinfonietta under Martyn Brabbins. It’s among the distinctive works in this Debut Discs series from NMC featuring young composers. The ever-skilful Oliver Coates travels to wild sonic territories in The Terminus Wreck for solo cello, inspired by Paul Celan’s poetry. With André de Ridder, the versatile pianist Sarah Nicolls and Sound Intermedia too, Goves has a fine line-up of musical collaborators. Hard to sum up, this is repertoire to explore, which yields its secrets with each fresh hearing.
Fiona Maddocks, The Observer, 25/05/2014
In the afternoon’s most provocative piece of programming, this outward-looking piece was coupled with Larry Goves’ very inward Trends in Personal Relationships, a title he told us came from a business management textbook, and it seemed to focus on the human world as opposed to the natural one. A lightly scored, airy piece, its instrumental lines again acted rather independently, but there was a solitary air to each part here, with hints of dialogues meandering ambiguously. This is another piece I’d love to hear again and which I hope the Sinfonietta find room for in future.
http://www.bachtrack.com, Paul Kilbey, 05/12/2012
Larry Goves’s delightful Sherpa Tensing stands up from the piano, says something quiet, and walks outside sets Matthew Welton’s wonderfully wacky verse that features a whole cast of characters from Socrates to Tommy Cooper saying something quiet and walking outside. In a programme filled with the darker side of the madrigal genre it was a welcome moment of light relief. I never thought I would hear Sid James mentioned in the Wigmore Hall.
The Observer, Stephen Pritchard, 28/10/2012
…Larry Goves’s Things that are blue, things that are white, things that are black was actually brand-new. It was a tour de force in two ways. There was the virtuosity of the players, above all solo pianist Sarah Nicolls, who had to play three keyboards – a standard grand piano, an electronic keyboard that gave out endless surprises from mistuned notes to giant chords, and some distance away behind the orchestra a second piano, “prepared” in ways that made it sound bell-like and exotic.
And there was the virtuosity of Goves’s score, which built up an orchestral embarras de richesses in many layers, with sounds from several key players looped and transformed by electronics. In the central section yet another element was thrown in – some ingenious animation projected on a screen from Jesse Collett and Myroslava Sayeed. The piece was engrossing for every moment of its 35 minutes…
The Telegraph, Ivan Hewett, 04/06/2010
…The great revelation of the evening was Larry Goves’ Things that are blue, things that are white and things that are black, which amounted to a triple piano concerto. There was only one pianist, but she was required to play on three instruments: a microtonal/electronic keyboard, a prepared piano and a ‘normal’ piano. The effect of this mixed palate was music of multiplied contrasts and layered textures. The ensemble consisted of a large string section and three semi-soloists (horn, viola and oboe) who created murkily knotted, drifting gusts; culminating in a devastating emotional climax. Pianist Sarah Nicolls played with deft aplomb, navigating rough musical terrain with understated assurance and beautiful tone. Gleaming, top drawer stuff from a fearless performer…
musicOHM, Stephen Crowe, 06/2010
…Goves’ Springtime, too, was one of the three works commissioned to mark the London Sinfonietta’s fortieth anniversary. This is a beautiful setting of an eponymous poem by Matthew Welton with whom the composer has already collaborated on several occasions. A sense of distance – suggested by the words of the poem – is achieved by the presence of two separate ensembles (one acoustic and one amplified) as well as by a pre-recorded vocal line counterpointing the live singer in an often enticing dialogue. This is one of the undoubted successes in this release and a truly beautiful work that deserves to be heard again and again…
MusicWeb International, Hubert Culot, 2009
…Larry Goves’ (b. 80) Springtime was perhaps the strongest work of the three. Its hushed profile and busy high range textures made out of a small number of gestures in harp and piano evocatively recalled the great Italian composer Salvatore Sciarrino. Goves displayed a fine ear for delicate colour and subtle drama throughout, and the Sinfonietta’s nuanced performance brought out all the startling musicality of the score. Juliet Fraser sung strongly in a dual role- both live and pre-recorded- that submerged the text of Matthew Welton’s eponymous poem into the immersive musical ocean…
MusicalCriticism.com, Stephen Graham, 12/2008
…There was equally concentrated drama in a new work by Larry Goves, I wear you on my sleeve, for piano and string quartet. This three-movement work created a forceful poetry from the technical differences between the strings and the piano. Clusters and chords in the piano melted into a microtonal mist of string sound, before the music coalesced in another burst of pianistic colour. The last movement ended with an unexpected and passionate cello solo, compellingly played by Paul Watkins: music that transcended the previous movements…
The Guardian, Tom Service, 27 February 2003
…Perhaps the most striking signs of promise come from Luke Bedford, with his muscular and acerbic Five Abstracts (three of them included here), and from Larry Goves; his Walking Underground has a restraint and concentration that combine into a quietly powerful musical statement. Both Bedford and Goves were still students when their pieces were written; what they do next should be well worth hearing, and State of the Nation needs to follow through with composers such as these until their careers are well launched…
The Guardian, Andrew Clements, 26 April 2002