Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Donnacha Dennehy : If he died - what then

Donnacha Dennehy has rapidly gained the status of Ireland's most important young composer. His album Grá agus bás (love and death) topped listeners' charts for contemporary music in New York, got a Gramophone Editor's Choice, and has served to bring his music to a much wider audience.

Part of this must be due to the relationship he has with Dawn Upshaw, who performs one of the two substantial works on the album. If people didn't know who Donnacha was, they knew who Dawn Upshaw is. And now they know who he is too. 

His music is a fascinating confluence of musical styles that forges a distinctive idiom. His manner of opening out and expanding musical material applies to text as well. The words repeat in fragments, extend, add up to sentences, and in the process he can add a weight and context to each word, just as he does with the musical elements. It's not so much a style of fragmentation as one of synthesis and mosaic. 

The work here is the premiere of a new commission: If he died - what then. The text is from a book documenting first-hand accounts of survivors of the Irish famine by Asenath Nicholson called Annals of the Famine in Ireland. Nicholson, an American woman who lived in Ireland during the Great Famine, traveled across the country and observed the horrifying effects of the famine. If he died - what then concentrates on Nicholson's story of the interaction between an old man, trying to feed his starving family, and a government-appointed officer, whose job it was to distribute food to the starving.

I've included a transcript of an extended interview with Dennehy and Upshaw for you to read. 

Donnacha Dennehy: If he died - what then
Premiere. Dawn Upshaw, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Stefan Asbury

Download from Rapidshare


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thank you very much for this rarity... really like your blog!

  3. I guess my Irish ancestors would be happy that I'm catching up on this proud new product of the culture, so thanks Ronan. Don't hear of many Irish classical composers, perhaps I'm not looking closely enough. I'm downunder here in Australia. Plenty of wonderful Irish musicians, balladeers and poets of course though!

    (I'm half Scot too).

  4. Unfortunately, Rapidshare has set its downloads as "Download permission denied by uploader. (0b67c2f5)" It seems that you have to reset the files so that they are not private. I would love to hear this piece, but I can't......