“Stylish and expressive, nuanced virtuosity in the Forqueray, more moving yet in a reflective wisp of Marais”
“Liam Byrne gave a glittering performance to match what he was wearing, and proved able to be skittish, throw a tantrum, and come to a sweet resolution, all in a brief sequence of notes”
Liam Byrne spends most of his time playing either very old or very new music on the viol. An obsession with the instrument’s most obscure 16th and 17th century repertoire is a recurring theme in his work, whether in devising experimental baroque performance installations for the Victoria & Albert museum, or in collaboration with the Appalachian fiddler Cleek Schrey, or creating new electronic works with Icelandic composer Valgeir Sigurðsson.
Liam’s solo performances frequently combine old viol music with new works written for him by composers such as David Lang, Nico Muhly, and Edmund Finnis, among many others. Summer of 2017 also sees the release of two massive studio-based works: Donnacha Dennehy’s 40-minute long Tessellatum for multi-tracked viol and viola (with Nadia Sirota), and Valgeir Sigurðsson’s Dissonance, a 23-minute deconstruction and explosion of a Mozart string quartet using many layers of Liam’s improvisation. Both are released on the Icelandic label Bedroom Community.
In June 2017, Liam was commissioned by the Victoria & Albert museum to create a site-specific sound installation for their new Courtyard Gallery, which resulted in the 8-hour long piece Partials, an exploration of the space’s resonance derived entirely from upper partial harmonics played on the viol. In 2015 Liam also collaborated with Nico Muhly on a sound installation for the National Gallery’s Soundscapes exhibition, and in 2016 was commissioned by the Dulwich Picture Gallery to make an immersive sound work in their Mausoleum, in response to two 17th century paintings by Gerrit Dou.
Over the years, Liam has worked closely with a wide variety of musicians, from Damon Albarn to Emma Kirkby, Nils Frahm and Shara Nova (My Brightest Diamond), and is a frequent guest of new music ensembles Stargaze, the London Contemporary Orchestra, and Crash Ensemble. With a background in Historical Performance and degrees from Indiana and Oxford Universities, Liam has played and recorded with many of Europe’s leading Early Music ensembles, including the Huelgas Ensemble, Dunedin Consort, The Sixteen, i Fagiolini, and the viol consorts Phantasm, Concordia, and most notably Fretwork, with whom he toured and recorded extensively for several years.
This is a short documentary film about a week-long performance I gave at the V&A in June 2015 as part of my Artist Residency there. For six days, for three hours a day, I sat inside a Victorian plaster replica of an ancient Roman column and played short concerts of Baroque music for one person at a time.
Jonas is one of my all-time favourite musicians to play with, and we’ve recently begun exploring Marais’ music in depth together. This is a little phone video of one of our early rehearsals in London.
This was filmed in London in March 2013, and is an excerpt from a short film by Samuel Dowd. If you want to see me doing the washing up, drinking coffee pensively, and talking about the viol, you can watch the whole ten-minute short film here.
This live video comes from a show I did with electronic musician Valgeir Sigurðsson in Basel in February 2013. It was the first tour I did with Valgeir and we were playing all his music, but while we were on the road we decided we needed more repertoire to play. So I sent him the score to Ancor che col partire, and Valgeir made this beautiful electronic realisation of the madrigal, on top of which I play the diminutions published by Riccardo Rognoni in 1592. This was one of the first performances, but we’ve done many since and a recording is in the works too.
More Marais rehearsal footage from Jonas’ place in Stockholm…
This is one of the songs from Damon Albarn’s opera Dr Dee, performed here in a live version we did for the BBC programme Later… with Jools Holland.
Coming soon, like very very soon…. Maybe even try tomorrow?
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