I only just discovered a short review of my Nonesuch CD of 2011, Grá agus Bás, that the New York Times published on December 31 2014. Here's a link.
Back in 1997, I founded Crash Ensemble in Dublin along with a number of friends. I could never have anticipated then how much it would prosper, although I was always optimistic about what could be achieved. Since 2012, when I started to spend more time in the States, I have shared the role of artistic director with the wonderful Kate Ellis. I am now moving to the role of artistic partner, leaving the artistic directorship in Kate's very able hands. I am very proud of what Crash Ensemble has done and continues to do, and I am very excited about Kate's vision for it in the future.
I’m heartbroken that my dearest friend, the brilliant musicologist Bob Gilmore (1961-2015) is no longer with us. He died peacefully in Amsterdam early on the morning of January 2nd, with his partner Elisabeth Smalt by his side. He meant the world to me, and I still can’t get my head around the fact that he has gone. Knowing how important Bob was to me, my friends in Crash Ensemble asked me to write a little bit about him. I’ve just finished a little personal memoir of him that they are putting up on their website (www.crashensemble.com). It was difficult to write, as I still feel enormously sad at this news. Bob was a wonderful man, and his spirit touched so many. The world is a much grayer place without him.
My new orchestra CD is the recording of the week (of December 22) on Q2 Radio in New York. Writing about it, Jeffrey Zeigler calls it an "essential statement". Also I'm pleased that NPR considers Typical Music's blazing performance of Bulb one of its best in-studio performances of the year.
The heroic Rachel Calloway replaced Dawn Upshaw for the premiere of The Hunger in St. Louis on December 11. Dawn unfortunately had to pull out due to a bad cold, and we were very lucky that Rachel was available to step in at short notice. Rachel did an absolutely brilliant job, and it was great to have her sing the role of Asenath Nicholson.
On December 11th, Alarm Will Sound, Dawn Upshaw and Iarla O'Lionaird will premiere the full concert version of The Hunger. The piece also features video interviews, especially done for the piece, with Noam Chomsky, Paul Krugman, Branko Milanovic, Maureen Murphy and Megan Vaughan. Jim Findlay is in charge of the video design. www.alarmwillsound.com
I'm involved in a great new series that Q2 and Nadia Sirota have dreamed up. It's called Meet the Composer, and you can check it out here.
RTE Lyric FM have just released a new CD of my orchestral music played by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland! It features Crane, O, The Vandal and Hive. Here's a link to it on spotify.
I was delighted to be involved in the Nonesuch at 50 celebrations at the Barbican in London in May. It was a joy (as usual) to work with Kronos Quartet, Iarla O'Lionaird and my own Crash Ensemble. I really enjoyed doing a new arrangement for the wonderful English singer Olivia Chaney and Kronos too for their folk song collection (which they are devising with Bob Hurwitz and others at Nonesuch). You can read a little of it here in the Telegraph. Further Nonesuch celebrations took place at BAM in New York in September, where Alarm Will Sound played Gra agus Bas along with Iarla O'Lionaird. You can read the New York Times review here.
Contact will premiere Turn in a portrait concert of Dennehy's music on 2 May at the Music Gallery in Toronto.
There will be lots of performances of Grá agus Bás this spring, culminating in a performance by Crash Ensemble and Iarla O'Lionaird as part of Nonesuch Records' 50th anniversary celebrations at the Barbican in May. Other performances include those given by Alarm Will Sound at Carnegie Hall, Contemporaneous also in New York, and Present Music in Milwaukee. Please see Concerts for details.
United of Instruments of Lucilin will present the world premiere of 'dirty light' especially commissioned by them on 20 September 2013 in their portrait concert of Dennehy's music (to be presented at their Studio Lucilin in Luxembourg). Other pieces presented include Bulb, Glamour Sleeper and Stainless Staining.
Alarm Will Sound will premiere new sections of The Hunger, the large-scale music theatre piece that Dennehy is writing for them, at Sheldon Hall St. Louis (March 20, 2013) and Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall (April 6, 2013). They will be joined by the mezzo-soprano, Rachel Calloway.
The portrait concert of Dennehy's music - given by Crash Ensemble - which opened the renowned Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival on 16 November 2012 gets 4 star reviews in the Times (UK) and Guardian. The Times UK 4/5 stars Richard Morrison, Tues 20th Nov, 2012"I shamefully confess that I have never encountered the Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy before. I’m sure I would have remembered the name. That’s my loss. In his early forties he is clearly a major talent, as was shown by the pieces showcased to open the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival on Friday. It was a refreshing choice, not least because Huddersfield’s annual avant-garde jamboree often rolls out wall-to-wall cerebral complexity. By contrast, Dennehy’s music – rooted in minimalism, though of the gritty European kind – embraces tonality, tempestuous passions and a desire to engage rather than befuddle.That was most apparent in his wild, stunning Grá agus Bás. Here the Dublin-based Crash Ensemble (conducted by Alan Pierson) was joined by the traditional singer Iarla Ó Lionaird in a 24-minute lament that fused the texts, anguished wails and unearthly embellishments of ancient Irish sean-nós singing to atmospheric chamber-orchestra textures.Even the restrained opening suggested some seething primordial primordial savagery. By the time the climax was reached, with Dennehy unleashing electric guitars and drums, the stomping intensity was spine chilling. The Gaelic text articulated a woman's fear of being impregnated by her lover. For me, however, Dennehy's setting evoked the "howling storm" of an English poem on a similar theme: Blake's The Sick Rose.A couple of his other pieces seemed over-extended, though I was constantly intrigued by his way of subverting minimalist pulsing with lurching cross-rhythms and extreme, stabbing instrumental timbres. The Crash Ensemble’s fervent performances would be a sensation at the Proms.”http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/arts/music/classical/article3604968.ece#.UKtheukLjHg.mailto The Guardian UK4/5 starsGuy Damann, Tues 20 Nov 2012 "....The Dublin-based but internationally revered Crash Ensemble kicked off the 2012 Huddersfield Contemporary Music festival with a portrait concert of their co-founder Donnacha Dennehy, who is very much the life and soul of Ireland's buzzing new-music party. An unusually upbeat beginning to the festival, then, or at least it would have been were Dennehy's upbeats more easily distinguished from his down. Though his music is driven by explosive and irrepressibly pulsating patterns, its rhythmic profile is curiously elusive: you want to tap your feet, but two feet rarely seem enough......" http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/nov/19/crash-ensemble-nicolas-hodges-reviewThe Irish Times Michael Dervan, 21 Nov 2012 "....what lingered in the mind most after a whole concert of his work was the extraordinary texturisation of the material. This is music that uses its sometimes frantic activity to create luxuriant surfaces that shimmer and buzz..."http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/features/2012/1121/1224326885059.htmlHuddersfield Examiner, 19 Novhttp://www.examiner.co.uk/news/local-west-yorkshire-news/2012/11/19/huddersfield-contemporary-music-festival-gets-off-to-a-flying-start-86081-32259192/
From the November 2012 American Edition of Gramophone: "Dennehy creates sonorities at once glistening and hypnotic...Every moment is suffused with delicate or dramatic propulsion... Lisa Moore, founding pianist of the Bang on a Can All-Stars, plays both works with mesmerising command of Dennehy's simmering soundscapes and finely graded dynamic palette". Donald Rosenberg
Stainless Staining, the EP of Donnacha Dennehy's piano music, recorded and released by Lisa Moore on Cantaloupe at the end of July, has made NPR's Heavy Rotation List - "5 Songs Public Radio Can't Stop Playing". It was previously Album of the Week on member station Q2 of New York.
Dawn Upshaw and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra will premiere "If He Died What Then" in St. Paul Minnesota on 10 February. Stefan Asbury conducts. Kronos Quartet will premiere "One Hundred Goodbyes" at Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall on 28 February.
Grá Agus Bás is one of NPR Music's Top 50 Albums (in all genres) of 2011. It also features in end of year lists from Alex Ross (The Rest is Noise) and Paul Griffiths. It made WNYC's New Sounds top ten of the year (both John Schaefer's list and the Listener Poll).
Grá Agus Bás, Dennehy's debut Nonesuch CD, gets a 5 star review from Andrew Clements in the Guardian. Mark Swed in the LA Times calls it rapturous, and Anne Midgette in the Washington Post describes the title piece as "an ecstatic vision set in a dreamscape of sound". Edward Ortiz in the Sacramento Bee says it's "easily one of the most bewitching releases of the year", John Fleming in the St. Petersburg Times writes that "Dennehy's score is hauntingly strange, a modern sonic world like no other, but also unusually accessible for new music" and Daniel Stephen Johnson, writing in the New Haven Advocate declares it to be "absolutely a revelation". Grá Agus Bás is one of the Editor's Choices in the August 2011 Edition of Gramophone Magazine.
Grá Agus Bás and That the Night Come are now streaming on NPR's First Listen. Anastasia Tsioulcas in her review for NPR calls it "one of the best and most satisfying listening experiences of the year so far". Elsewhere Norman Lebrecht calls That The Night Come "captivating", and Steve Smith in a review for the New York Times of a recent Carnegie Hall workshop lead by Dawn Upshaw and Donnacha Dennehy refers to the upcoming album as "gorgeous". Interviews about the album are now online at WNYC's Soundcheck and NPR's Weekend Edition.
Nonesuch Records have just announced the release date for the first recording of Donnacha Dennehy's music with the label. Called Grá Agus Bás, it features that piece of the same name (sung by Iarla O'Lionaird) and That the Night Come (with Dawn Upshaw as the soloist). Crash Ensemble (conducted by Alan Pierson) perform both works. It is possible to pre-order the disc here.
Dawn Upshaw will premiere That the Night Come, a song cycle for her and Crash Ensemble (cond. Alan Pierson) to texts by W.B. Yeats at IMMA in Dublin on 2 October 2010. That The Night Come is written especially for Dawn and was commissioned by her with funds provided by the Arts Council of Ireland.
Crane for orchestra (2009) was recommended by the 57th International Rostrum of Composers on the 4 June 2010 in Lisbon.
Some radio broadcasts online: Interview with John Schaefer on WNYC (May 07 2010); Crash Ensemble in concert in London (including interviews with composers) on BBC (June 12 2010). Available on their iplayer too; Crane for orchestra on Bernard Clarke's Nova on RTE Lyric FM (June 20) and on Danish Radio. Update July: Crash Ensemble's Le Poisson Rouge gig in New York is now up online at WQXR's Q2. Features live performances of Streetwalker and As An Nós.