Gerald Barry – Leaving Cert Notes

Hi guys,

With the leaving cert fast approaching I decided to put together some helpful tips for the exam. First I will go through Gerald Barry. Again if you have any questions please get in touch 🙂

Best of luck!

Piano Quartet No. 1 by Gerald Barry

This piano quartet was commissioned by the Institute of Contemporary Arts and first performed in London in 1992.

Chamber work – A quartet four 4 instruments.





This genre of chamber music was established in Classical and Baroque era.

Example of Twentieth century contemporary music.

Inspirations from traditional Irish melodies:

Þ    Sí Bheag Sí Mhór

Þ    Lord Mayo

Þ    ‘Tis the last Rose of Summer

Þ    Beidh Aonach Amárach

Fuses these melodies with his own individual style, extra notes added and taken away, and original melodies become almost unrecognisable.

Boundaries of music pushed, instruments played in different styles, no tonal centre, no actual form, detailed performing directions.

Abstract music – it does not tell a story

Instrumental line more important than instrumental colour to Barry

Quartet begins and ends with music that is heard only once

Section C is central dominant material, occurs 9 times, yet never exact repetition


Þ    Creates contrasting textures with strings

Þ    Doubles string parts – very often

Þ    Plays one, or more, voices in canon

Þ    Introduces dissonance

Þ    Plays note cluster

Þ    Solo section – “Hommage Á horowitz”

Instruments techniques

  • Open strings
  • Hand clusters on piano
  • Harmonics – delicate wispy sound
  • Détaché – detached – separate bow for each note
  • Flautando – bow over the fingerboard


  • Quartet – one movement – 18 sections
  • Eight different themes – (4 appear only once)

A   B1       C1       C2       B2       C3       D1       D2+D3           E1

C4 C5       E2+D3            C6       C7       F+C8              C9       G         H

  • Unusual form – does not fit any standard form
  • No recapitulation
  • Ends with 3 new sections – F G and H – very unusual
  • Unusual rondo form – because of constant recurrence of C


  • Mainly atonal
  • Section A (based on Sí bheag sí mhór) is pentatonic – no 7th notes, uses only 4th in final bars
  • B and B1 refer to key of C with a recurring C sharp
  • C1 in A flat
  • E2 + D3 – only section with noted key signature – b flat minor

Rhythmic Features

  • Over 330 time signature changes
  • Unusual time signatures – 1/8, 5/8
  • Complex rhythmic patterns
  • Irregular rhythms and irregular patterns
  • Polymetry – combining different metres simultaneously
  • Metronome marks for tempo changes.

Compositional Features

  • Canon –           many times, from 2 part to 5 part,
    • eg 4 part canon on inversion of “Sí bheag sí mhór”
  • Retrograde – melody played backwards

–           eg. Melody in E1 is retrograde of melody D2

  •              Augmentation   –   notes values are lengthened, usually doubled

–          eg. C8

  •    Diminution – notes value are shortened

–           eg. B1 notes are halved in B3

  • Wedging – making intervals bigger

– eg C2 and C3

  • Splicing         –           making intervals smaller

–           eg C2 and C3

  • Inversion       –           melody turned upside down

–           Eg, “Sí Bheag Si Mhór” in section A

  • Counterpoint            –           combining 2 themes – polyphonic

–           Eg D2 and B3

  • Telescoping              –           Fragments of previous sections in a short section

–           Eg Section G

Section A

  • Based on inversion of “Sí Bheag Sí Mhór”
  • Four part canon at distance of a crotchet, yet all begin at same time
  • Feeling of C major
  • Mainly ¾, but time signature changes

Contemporary features

  • Harmonics
  • Open strings
  • Canon at distance of a crotchet
  • Time signature changes

Non-contemporary features

  • Instruments
  • Use of canons
  • Repetition
  • Range
  • Staccato
  • 2 bass clefs

Section A1

  • Starts to develop
  • Loud dynamics
  • Very high register and wide range
  • Piano entirely in bass cleft
  • Five part canon
  • Harmonics – open strings
  • Very polyphonic
  • Two part piano
  • Page repeated, louder 2nd time.

Section B

  • Key of C major with a persistent C sharp.
  • Atonal
  • Homophonic
  • Rhythmic melody on violin, starts with an upbeat in ¾ time
  • Drone like staccato two note pattern on viola – like hurdy gurdy
  • Slower speed
  • Sudden change of time signature to 5/8 – instability and imbalance
  • Cello part is inversion of viola two note pattern.
  • Repeated from bar 72 with cello added
  • From bar 90, melody is repeated on all 3 string instruments, playing an octave apart.
  • Melody repeated without accompaniment
  • Piano plays hand clusters, span of 2 octaves
  • Dynamics very loud

Section C1

  • Strings only
  • Polyphonic
  • 2 melodies – violin and viola
  • Feeling of A flat
  • Flow of melodies interrupted by abrupt time signature changes
  • Harmonics on cello

From Bar 124

  • repeated an octave lower
  • piano introduced
  • Takes music from “Tis the last rose of summer”
  • Louder and faster
  • Piano doubles string parts

Section C2

  • Based on C1
  • Atonal
  • Violin and viola melodies
  • Polyphonic
  • Slower
  • Softer dynamics
  • Wedging and splicing
  • No piano

Section B2

  • B section melody played 5 times in canon creating polyphonic texture, varied, slightly different each time

Bar 170

  • Three part canon at distance of crotchet
  • Very loud
  • Viola, violin and cello

Bar 188 on and bar 205

  • Three part canon on strings
  • Piano doubles string parts at the octave in bass clef

Bar 222

  • Three part canon in 5ths at octave on strings and piano
  • Violin and viola doubles, cello and piano R.H doubled with LH piano in 5ths
  • Double stopping on violin
  • Soft dynamics and light articulation

Bar 239

  • Repeat of canon from previous part
  • Drone effect using adjacent open strings
  • Pedal note D in cello
  • Double stopping on strings
  • Very loud

Section C3

  • Based on four different versions of C
  • Gets louder an faster each time
  • Polyphonic

Bar 256

  • Viola and cello repeat C2 with descant melody on violin
  • Violin doubles cello part at intervals of 2nd and 7th – dissonance
  • Slow
  • Quieter
  • No piano

Bar 272

  • Single fragmented piano line, doubles some strings parts at interval of 2nd
  • Faster and louder than previous
  • Double stopping

Bar 288

  • Higher pitch – cello in treble clef
  • Both melodies doubles at dissonant intervals on piano in bass clef
  • Faster an louder

Bar 303

  • Violin higher
  • Piano LH doubles RH at interval of 2nd

Section D1

  • Based on Beidh Aonach Amárach
  • Shortest section
  • A minor
  • Shortest time sig in piece used – 1/8
  • Loud
  • Homophonic
  • Hurdy gurdy effect in cello (similar to B1)
  • Very unstable due to time signature changes
  • 3/16 time signature – contemporary – not usual
  • Repeated notes in melody on viola

Section D2+B3

  • Both sections heard simultaneously
  • D2 on violin and piano RH, B3 on viola and cello, both in unison
  • B melody is in diminution (note values halved)
  • Piano LH plays hurdy gurdy in thirds
  • B3 becomes rhythmically distorted – adds tension
  • Music repeated at bar 344 with different time signatures, some notes left out
  • Polyphonic

Section E1

  • 4 part canon at distance of quaver at the octave, violin, viola, cello, LH piano
  • D2 played in reverse (retrograde)
  • Repeat sign
  • Changing time signatures – obscure
  • Polyphonic
  • Loud with accented notes

Section C4

  • Hommage á Horowitz
  • Piano solo – only instrument with solo section
  • Very very loud
  • Derived from C melodies
  • Both hands play in octaves
  • Homophonic
  • Flamboyant
  • Dedicated to Horowitz a Russian pianist

Section C5

  • Shortened version of C3
  • Slower
  • 3 part canon distance of a crotchet
  • Soft dynamics
  • Changing time signatures
  • No piano
  • Canon repeated at bar 415 with some notes left out

Section E2 + D3

  • Only section with a noted key signature – B flat minor
  • E and D combined and up a semitone to B flat minor
  • Polyphonic
  • Very loud, with accented notes
  • E2 is a retrograde of D and heard on violin and viola in unison
  • D3 heard on cello an piano RH in unison
  • Music repeated at bar 442 with violin an octave higher and piano LH octave lower

Section C6

  • 3 part canon at distance of a quaver
  • C6 is C5 up a semi-tone and shortened
  • Instruments technique flautando used – Played on finger board giving a wispy sound
  • Polyphonic
  • Soft dynamics

Section C7

  • Based on C material but sounds like a new section – contrasts, different speed and dynamics
  • Cello based on one of original C melodies
  • Canon in violin and viola based on inversion of C6
  • Piano doubles string parts
  • Notes added at distance of 2nds 4ths and 5ths – adds dissonance
  • Polyphonic

Bar 483

  • Faster
  • Double stopping adds to intensity
  • Higher pitch, accelerates then stops suddenly

Section F + C8

  • One bar rest, then new material, F, on violin
  • Triplets I melody, jig rhythm, Irish dance music
  • Piano part is retrograde of F melody
  • C material heard in augmentation (longer notes) on viola and cello
  • Polyphonic
  • Different time signatures used simultaneously – polymetry

Section C9

  • One bar rest then 3 part canon two octaves distance of crotchet on strings
  • Shortest and slowest version of C
  • Polyphonic
  • Wide distance between parts, high pitch in violin, low pitch in cello

Section G

  • New music but derived from rest of quartet
  • Telescoping – complete work in nine bars by taking notes from beginning an end of each section
  • Homophonic
  • Very fast
  • Very loud with accented notes
  • Constantly changing time signatures

Section H

  • Based on Irish tune, “Lord Mayo’s Delight”
  • Polyphonic
  • 2 part canon, unison, distance of crotchet on viola cello
  • Flautando used again

Bar 542

  • 3 part canon, unison, distance of crotchet, viola, cello and Piano LH, base on second part of tune

Bar 558

  • Final section return to first part of tune
  • 3 part canon, unison, distance of crotchet, violin, viola, cello
  • Soft dynamics
  • Some notes omitted in violin part as outside range of instrument and are filled by viola
  • Piano plays final note D in bass creating unfinished open effect at end.
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *