Wednesday 25th May, 2011
Review of Grá agus Bás by Andrew Clements, The Guardian, May 19th, 2011
Donnacha Dennehy's music had already made a potent synthesis of the pulsing energy of minimalism with the harmonic richness of the spectralists before he grafted onto it the traditions of his native Ireland, in particular the unaccompanied songs of sean-nós, with their highly ornamented vocal lines. The result was the remarkable 2007 Grá agus Bás (Love and Death), in which the voice of sean-nós singer Iarla Ó Lionáird was the starting point not only for the vocal lines of Dennehy's work, but for the textures that support and envelop them. It's a piece of startling freshness, with Ó Lionáird's voice at the centre of a seething web of instrumental lines that seems to commute freely between utterly different musical worlds without any trace of dislocation. The WB Yeats settings of That the Night Come, written for soprano Dawn Upshaw and first performed last year, are shaped into a song cycle that may be more conventional than the compelling continuity of Grá agus Bás, but which is exquisitely shaped and perfectly conceived for Upshaw's voice.