Judith Bailey was born in Cornwall in 1941. Her instrumental music occupies an important place in her musical output and is given the platform it deserves in this release. The works are set out chronologically so we can start with the earliest, the 1987 String Quartet and end with Light, her Op.76, written in 2004.
The Quartet is written in three brief movements. It’s tightly argued and the first movement has the feel, at least, of baroque affinities and is grave of utterance but flows freely, remaining unresolved at the end. The central movement is fugal, the density of which is banished by a gutsy free wheeling finale full of spirit. The Clarinet Quintet (1993) is another three movement, even more compact work. The first is good humoured and concise, almost cheeky at points, whilst the finale is a perambulatory affair, with a brief moment of reflection on balance overshadowed by the jaunty confidence of the writing. At eight minutes in total it certainly doesn’t prolong things unnecessarily.
The Towers of San Gimignano for solo piano followed in 1993. The first movement is a bell chime study – at first elusively so, and then the bell chimes become progressively more audible the more the piece develops (and the ‘nearer’ pictorially speaking the composer-auditor gets to them). There is a grand efflorescence then more limpid sounds. The second movement is Frescoes – rich and redolent tracery; the Piazza finale features the kind of jaunty stuff that ended the Clarinet Quintet – a chirpy song alternating with chordal power.
From a solo piano work to the Egloshayle Nightingale Trio for violin, viola and cello. Cast in baroque-sounding movements this embraces the folkloric, utilising that lovely song The Sweet Nightingale – you might remember it from Deller’s recording. Sweetly sunny and vivacious. Aquamarine Waltz for cello and piano is pleasant; the Microminiatures left a lesser impression – nevertheless they’re quietly intense with spirited finales. Visions of Hildegard is a series of variations or ‘breaths’ reflectively and with cumulative weight becoming more and more moving – a lovely piece of music. Finally there is Light ; a serious minded, reflective but intense work for piano trio. Though it has moments of outburst it ends in affirmative and consolatory resolve.
The performers are strong advocates for Bailey’s music and they’ve been recorded in quite a pleasingly up-front sort of way. This is a fine and stimulating conspectus of Judith Bailey’s chamber music.