Byrne has been named the recipient of the Glenn Gould Bach Fellowship to pursue his recording of 17th century viol music

Liam Byrne © Clemens Hansson (1)

Liam Byrne © Clemens Hansson

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Viola da gambist Liam Byrne is the 2024 recipient of the Glen Gould Bach Fellowship. Endowed with €70,000, the fellowship is awarded every two years by the city of Weimar to selected musicians to realise their ambitious and innovative musical media projects on music of Bach and the Baroque period. The Glenn Gould Bach Fellowship is made possible by the Philip Loubser Foundation and managed by the Thuringia Bach Festival.

Byrne will have the opportunity to spend the next two years working on his project which will focus on the rare music of the English lyra-viol repertoire from the early 17th century. ’This intimate and introspective lute-like music plays with the most subtle aspects of the viola da gamba’s resonance, which are not so easy to capture using traditional recording techniques,’ explains Byrne. The project will take an experimental approach to the recording and transmission of lyra-viol music, using this repertoire as a case study to raise broader questions about aesthetics of sound in classical music recording in general.

The project is inspired by Glenn Gould’s hands-on relationship to recording and embraces the artificially constructive aspect of the recording process as a means of giving the listener a deeper relationship to the music and to the physicality of the instrument producing it. ’The fellowship offers an incredible opportunity to go beyond what is possible in an everyday professional setting,’ said Byrne. ’With the time and support to question all aspects of the recording process, we have the opportunity to make something truly new and hopefully capture some aspects of this esoteric repertoire that have never been heard before.’ Byrne will present his fellowship project on 14 April as part of the Thuringia Bach Festival 2024 in Weimar.

Byrne has spent his career performing and recording with many of Europe’s leading early music ensembles, including the Huelgas Ensemble, Dunedin Consort, Academy of Ancient Music and Fretwork. He has also worked frequently with composers, folk and electronic musicians, discovering new sonic possibilities with his 17th-century instrument that in turn have informed his historical work. He is a member of the Icelandic artist collective and record label Bedroom Community, with which he released his debut solo album Concrete in 2019. In 2022 he completed a PhD on experimental performance formats of Baroque music at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum in collaboration with the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Weimar’s deputy mayor, Ralf Kirsten, said, ’The international selection panel has succeeded in selecting a creative and highly interesting musician as the new fellow. The city of Weimar warmly welcomes the gambist Liam Byrne and is very grateful to the Philip Loubser Foundation for establishing and funding the Glenn Gould Bach Fellowship.’

The fellowship was created in May 2020, with co-creator Irish pianist Peter Tuite as the founding fellow. The fellowship was subsequently awarded to the German cellist, Tanja Tetzlaff. Her Fellowship project, the film documentary Suites for a Suffering World, related Bach’s cello suites to nature and climate change, exploring ideas of culture, inheritance and civic responsibility. The film was awarded an OPUS Klassik Prize in 2023.

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