Release Date:

August 1, 2016

Live recording of performance in the Elder Hall, Adelaide, as part of the 2015 Adelaide Festival of Arts

Gavin’s Notes:

Nothing like the Sun

During the last ten years, I have been drawn more and more to music modelled on structures from early music, especially madrigals and laude. My first book of madrigals, written for the Hilliard, set commissioned poems by my operatic collaborator Blake Morrison. For the second I turned to Petrarch, in Italian – to the Laura sonnets in the Rime Sparse – and stayed with him for the third book (in remarkable Irish prose translations by J M Synge) as well as the fourth (setting the longer sestina form). The Fifth Book of Madrigals (The I Tatti Madrigals, recorded as BCGBCD26)sets a number of Renaissance poets, including Petrarch and the Sixth is entirely of Petrarch. I have also written eight choral settings for men’s choir of Edwin Morgan’s “Sonnets for Scotland” (three of these apparea on BCGBCD11 Silva Caledonia)

So to turn to the Shakespeare sonnets felt like a natural progression. Unlike Petrarch, of course, the sonnets do not constitute the main body of his work. But they are a rich and complex set of poems that interconnect and cross refer in endlessly fascinating ways. In choosing the eight that I eventually set I consciously avoided those that are essentially love poems. I developed, rather, a sequence of the more abstract sonnets, those which focus on ideas of time, poetry and sometimes love – but above all in relation to concepts of impermanence and mortality, inevitably pervaded with melancholy. Five of the settings are duets, for soprano and tenor, and there are two solos for tenor and one for soprano. Two of the sonnets contain specific musical references: number 128 to the act of playing the virginals, number 102 to the song of the nightingale. Two of the sonnets have instrumental postludes: 128 for piano and 146 for double bass.

Each musical setting is preceded by a spoken version of the sonnet, but spoken precisely within the music and leading directly into the sung version. At the end of the last sonnet, sonnet 64, the spoken voice and the two singers come together, recalling fragments from the text – like the last readable inscriptions on a faded monument.

The settings are dedicated to the memory of the Scottish poet George Bruce.



Peyee Chen, Soprano
John Potter, Tenor
Gavin Friday, Speaking Voice
Anna Coleman, Bass clarinet/clarinet
James Woodrow, Electric guitar/Acoustic guitar
Rebecca Lagos, Percussion (cimbalom, tam-tam, bass drum, vibraphone)
Roland Peelman, Piano
Morgan Goff, Viola
Imants Larsens, Viola
Nick Cooper, Cello
Gavin Bryars, Double bass


1 Prologue (instrumental)
2 Sonnet 60A (spoken)
3 Sonnet 60 B (soprano and tenor)
4 Sonnet 123A (spoken)
5 Sonnet123B (tenor solo)
6 Sonnet 128A (spoken)
7 Sonnet 128B (soprano and tenor) followed by piano postlude
8 Sonnet 94A (spoken)
9 Sonnet 94B (soprano and tenor)
10 Sonnet 102A (spoken)
11 Sonnet 102B (soprano solo)
12 Sonnet 146A (spoken)
13 Sonnet 146B (soprano and tenor) followed by bass postlude
14 Sonnet 55A (spoken)
15 Sonnet 55B (tenor solo)
16 Sonnet 64A (spoken)
17 Sonnet 64B (soprano and tenor) followed by epilogue

Playable Tracks

Gavin Bryars