Gerald Barry was born in Ireland in 1952 and after attending University College Dublin went to Amsterdam and later Cologne to continue his studies. His time in Germany, where he studied with Stockhausen and Kagel, proved to be a liberating experience and he soon came to public attention in 1979 with the radical ensemble works “________” and Ø.
Barry has received a number of commissions by the BBC, including ‘Chevaux-de-frise’ for the 1988 Proms, given its Russian première by the Mariinsky Orchestra in 2007; ‘The Conquest of Ireland’, given its German première by the Bavarian RSO in 1998; ‘Day’ for the BBC Symphony Orchestra; ‘The Eternal Recurrence’, a setting of Nietzsche for voice and orchestra; and ‘Hard D’ for the Orkest de Volharding.
Barry’s first opera ‘The Intelligence Park’ (recorded on NMC), was commissioned by the ICA and first performed at the 1990 Almeida Festival. A second opera, ‘The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit’, written for Channel 4 Television, opened the 2002 Aldeburgh Festival, followed by performances in London and the Berliner Festwochen conducted by Thomas Adés. A new staging took place in 2013 at the Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe. ‘The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant’ was given in 2005 at English National Opera and in 2008 at the Basle Opera. ‘La Plus Forte’, a one-act opera on the Strindberg play, was commissioned by Radio France for the 2007 Festival Présences. Sung by Barbara Hannigan, it toured to Amsterdam, London, Dublin, Miami and Toronto. The RTÉ recording of ‘The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant’ has been re-released on the Discovery label.
Barry wrote ‘Wiener Blut’, ‘Dead March’ and ‘Beethoven’ for Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. ‘God Save The Queen’ for choir and ensemble was commissioned for the London Sinfonietta by London's South Bank Centre on the fiftieth birthday of the Royal Festival Hall in 2001. Recent chamber works include ‘Le Vieux Sourd’ for piano, commissioned by Betty Freeman, ’Feldmans Six-Penny Editions’ for the London Sinfonietta and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and ‘No people’. for Ensemble 7Bridges.
His most recent opera, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, was jointly commissioned by the LA Philharmonic Society and the Barbican in London, and received its world premiere staging at Opéra national de Lorraine – Nancy in 2013. Two further productions were staged the same year at the Royal Opera House Linbury Theatre, and on tour with NI Opera. In 2016 the ROH stagings of ‘Earnest’ will be revived in London with the Britten Sinfonia and in New York with the New York Philharmonic. ‘Earnest’ received a 2013 Royal Philharmonic Award for Large-Scale Composition and a recording was released on NMC in 2014.
Barry's ‘Piano Concerto’, written for Nicolas Hodges and co-commissioned by Musica Viva, Munich and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, was premiered in Munich in 2013 with subsequent performances in 2014 including the UK premiere with the CBSO, the Finnish premiere with Avanti! Chamber Orchestra and the Irish premiere with the RTÉ NSO.