The Michael Nyman Band, formerly known as the Campiello Band, is a group formed as a street band for a 1976 production of Carlo Goldoni's 1756 play, Il Campiello directed by Bill Bryden at the Old Vic. The band did not wish to break up after the production ended, so its director, Michael Nyman, began composing music for the group to perform, beginning with "In Re Don Giovanni", written in 1977. Originally made up of old instruments such as rebecs, sackbuts and shawms alongside more modern instruments like the banjo and saxophone to produce as loud a sound as possible without amplification, it later switched to a fully amplified line-up of string quartet, double bass, clarinet, three saxophones, horn, trumpet, bass trombone, bass guitar, and piano. This line up has been variously altered and augmented for some works.
The band's first recorded album on a professional label was Nyman's second, the self-titled Michael Nyman (1981), which mostly comprised pieces written for the early films of Peter Greenaway. This album has yet to be released on compact disc. Another self-titled album (1995) has appeared as a promotional item compiling tracks from various other albums, and should not be confused with this one.
Along with soundtracks to Greenaway's The Draughtsman's Contract, Drowning by Numbers, and The Cook The Thief His Wife & Her Lover, their 1980s output included The Kiss and Other Movements (which includes the titular art song; a song from Nyman's projected Tristram Shandy opera; a tango; a movement from the same work as "Memorial" as used in Greenaway's 26 Bathrooms; and a performance of music (not the original soundtrack) from Greenaway's Making a Splash) and the modern dance work And Do They Do. They also made a limited edition recording of Nyman's La Traversée de Paris in 1989; many of its individual movements were soon to be dismantled, revised, or simply transplanted whole, to serve as the soundtrack for Greenaway's Prospero's Books (1991). Conversely, Nyman composed music for another adaptation of William Shakespeare's The Tempest, the ballet-opera Noises, Sounds & Sweet Airs, soon after Prospero's Books, some of which was dervied from La Traversée de Paris.
Their 1992 album, The Essential Michael Nyman Band, may appear to be a greatest hits compilation, but is actually composed of the concert versions of various film pieces, having undergone years of revisions and refinement, are significantly different from their soundtrack counterparts, to a far more severe extent than typical differences between classical music performances. This album also contains two cuts from the film score to A Zed & Two Noughts, which was originally performed by an orchestra of musicians who were never members of the band, with solos by band members Nyman, Balanescu, Perry, and Leonard. Similarly, The Piano was performed by members of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra with Harle, Roach, Findon, and Nyman, but is also part of the band's repertoire.
In 1993, the band joined with an orchestra for the first time in their recording history with MGV: Musique à Grand Vitesse, a piece commissioned for the opening of a TGV line, first performed on 26 September 1993, in which the band, according to Nyman's own liner notes, represents the tracks, "resisting the temptation of the concerto grosso". The album credit is to "The Michael Nyman Band and Orchestra".
The group has largely been superseded by the Michael Nyman Orchestra. Such soundtrack albums as Practical Magic, Ravenous, The End of the Affair, The Claim, and The Libertine are credited to this group, first implied on that 1994 album. While the former two titles lack detailed credits, the latter three albums show that most of the band (not to say most of those credited as full members over its history) performs in the Orchestra. The band's existence is far from over, however, as Nyman orchestrated his 2002 opera, Facing Goya, specifically for the band. His previous two opera recordings include band members but are not formally credited to the band, and one, the aforementioned Noises, Sounds & Sweet Airs, uses a full-scale orchestra, without Nyman at the baton. Man and Boy: Dada (2004) and Love Counts (2005; recorded 2007), Nyman's newest operas, feature the band conducted by Paul McGrath..
In 1996, another offshoot group, The Nyman Quartet, consisting of Cathy Thompson, Gabrielle Lester, Kate Musker, and Tony Hinnigan, recorded The Ballad of Kastriot Rexhepi (with Sarah Leonard--the only singer ever credited as a band member) and Exit No Exit, and plan to record the third recording of Nyman's four string quartets.
They are produced by David Cunningham.
Many of the current and former band members, including John Harle, Alexander Balanescu, Dave Lee, Madeleine Mitchell, Andrew Findon, and Simon Haram, have released solo albums that include performances of Nyman's music.
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