Listening Log – [Pt. III]- VASILI BYROS- PRELUDE IN D MINOR for Harpsichord (2015)


Listening Log – [Pt. III]- VASILI BYROS- PRELUDE IN D MINOR for Harpsichord (2015) In October 2018 Listened (streaming) to digital audio CD: ‘Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique/Harold en Italie/Overtures’. (1999) on Double Forte. Conductors: Leonard Bernstein (Conductor), Andre Previn (Conductor). Performer: Donald McInnes Orchestra: French National Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra.

I was curious to hear what a contemporary composition in the Baroque style might sound like and after extensive searching online I came across the musicologist and composer Vasili Byros who has composed his own Baroque pieces using Bach’s teachings as a model for his compositions. He has endeavoured to use the same methodology but come up with work distinctly his own. On his website I came across a piece I really like and which I think is a very successful attempt and fulfils the criteria he set out for himself. It is a prelude for a Harpsichord, aptly named ‘PRELUDE IN D MINOR for Harpsichord (2015)’ The video can be found both on his above mentioned website and his Vimeo

The piece starts with a flourish of demi-semi quavers. Outlining a cascading ascending figure stretching over several bars coming to an end trilling on a slow note and settling down onto a chord. The melody line then plays a series of interrupted flourishes with an extremely dramatic flavour and utilising a fair amount of trills. More trills than a Bach piece generally uses. The stop/start melodies give an impression of short haikus or outbursts. This is also in sharp contrast to what i would expect from a Bach like Baroque composition with the usual uniform texture and continuous movement. The effect of this different approach to the rhythm is that the piece gives a little bit of an Impressionistic impression, reminding me of Debussy or even Ravel’s Ondine. It is an unusual combination of Baroque and non-Baroque flavours which makes it very much it’s own.

Harmonically speaking it is also more modern sounding and the underlying chords do not outline the harmonic progression as clearly as a Bach composition would.

The ‘cascading’ section gives way to a more arpeggiated section after about 2 min. There are still plenty of cascades in this section too, but less than in the opening and interspersed with arpeggiated chords. Vasily also introduces new embellishments here in the form of mordents. The overall effect is somewhat ‘harp like’ in the texture. The demi-semi quavers give way to quavers, then crochets and finally longer passages with minims.

Before the 6 minute mark shorter note values are resumed with figures more closely resembling what you might expect from Baroque harpsichord music, with a steady texture. At first these figures alternate between the different hands until they finally join up. The outro from 7 min onward really resembles a harp glissandi in the sound.

It is a very beautiful and dramatic piece with both contemporary and Baroque flavours and I’m very glad I came across it.