The inimitable Crash Ensemble play Donnacha Dennehy’s Disposable Dissonance and the late Gérard Grisey's Vortex Temporum in a late night show: a great opportunity to hear the work of two genre-busting composers brought to life by Ireland’s premier new music ensemble.
Donnacha Dennehy has a soundworld all of his own
Few composers could claim to have initiated a whole style. Debussy is one; Webern, another; Gérard Grisey – who would have been 70 this month – is a third
Hear the work of the composer of The Second Violinist and The Last Hotel alongside the work of one of the great innovators of contemporary music.
Donnacha Dennehy, Disposable Dissonance
Gérard Grisey, Vortex Temporum
Crash Ensemble is Ireland’s leading new music ensemble; a group of world-class musicians who play the most adventurous, ground-breaking music of today.
Founded in 1997 by composer Donnacha Dennehy, clarinettist Michael Seaver and pianist/composer Andrew Synnott, some of the most distinctive living composers have written for the group, including Terry Riley, David Lang, Michael Gordon, Louis Andriessen, Arnold Dreyblatt, Kevin Volans, Glen Branca, Nico Muhly and Gerald Barry.
Many well-known artists from diverse musical backgrounds have performed with the ensemble; Gavin Friday, Íarla Ó Lionáird (The Gloaming), Bryce Dessner (The National), Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire), Sam Amidon, Dawn Upshaw, Julie Feeney, Lisa Hannigan and Beth Orton.
As well as performing throughout Ireland, Crash regularly perform internationally, with appearances in the last few years at the Edinburgh International Festival, The Royal Opera House (London), The Barbican (London), Carnegie Hall (NYC) The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington DC), Virginia Tech (Virginia), GAIDA Festival (Lithuania) and residencies at The Huddersfield Contemporary Music festival (UK) and Princeton University (NJ).
Born in Dublin in 1970, Donnacha Dennehy has had work featured in festivals and venues around the world, such as the Edinburgh International Festival, Royal Opera House London, Carnegie Hall New York, The Barbican London, The Wigmore Hall London, BAM New York, Tanglewood Festival, Holland Festival, Kennedy Center, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in the UK (which opened its 2012 Festival with a portrait concert devoted to Dennehy’s music), Dublin Theatre Festival, Prototype Festival (New York), ISCM World Music Days, Bang On A Can, Ultima Festival in Oslo, Musica Viva Lisbon, the Saarbrucken Festival, and the Schleswig-Holstein Festival.
Returning to Ireland after studies abroad in the USA, France and Holland, Dennehy founded Crash Ensemble, Ireland’s now-renowned new music group, in 1997. Alongside the singers Dawn Upshaw and Iarla O’Lionáird, Crash Ensemble features on the 2011 Nonesuch release of Dennehy’s music, entitled Grá agus Bás. NPR named it one of its “50 favorite albums’’ (in any genre) of 2011. In October 2014, RTE Lyric FM released a portrait CD of Dennehy’s orchestral music. Other releases include a number by NMC Records in London, and Cantaloupe in New York. Previously a tenured lecturer at Trinity College Dublin, Donnacha was appointed a Global Scholarat Princeton University in the Autumn of 2012. He was also appointed composer-in-residence for the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra in Texas (2013-14). He joined the music faculty at Princeton University in 2014.
Dennehy’s The Last Hotel (2015), with a libretto by Enda Walsh, was met with critical acclaim in the UK when it premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival in August 2015. Other recent pieces include Surface Tension premiered by Third Coast Percussion in February 2016, and The Weather of it for the Doric Quartet co-commissioned from the Wigmore Hall and Carnegie Hall, premiered at the Wigmore Hall in July 2016. Recent projects include a new opera, The Second Violinist, again to a libretto by Enda Walsh, and a piece for So Percussion, co-commissioned by the Cork Opera House and Carnegie Hall. A recording of his new piece for Nadia Sirota and viol consort led by Liam Byrne, Tessellatum, was released by Bedroom Community in the summer of 2017.
Gérard Grisey was born in Belfort, France in 1946. He studied at the Trossingen Conservatory in Germany from 1963 to 1965 before entering the Conservatoire de Paris, where he studied with Olivier Messiaen from 1965–67 and again from 1968–72, working with Henri Dutilleux at the Ecole Normale in 1968 (Anderson 2001). He won prizes for piano accompaniment, harmony, counterpoint, fugue, and composition at the Conservatoire. He also studied electroacoustics with Jean-Étienne Marie in 1969), composition with Iannis Xenakis and György Ligeti at the Darmstädter Ferienkurse in 1972, and acoustics with Emile Leipp at the Faculté des Sciences in 1974 (Anderson 2001). Other studies were undertaken in the summer of 1969 at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena and in Darmstadt with Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Grisey won the highly coveted Prix de Rome and stayed at the Villa Medici in Rome from 1972 to 1974, and in 1973 founded a group called L’itinéraire with Tristan Murail, Roger Tessier and Michael Levinas, later to be joined by Hugues Dufourt. Dérives, Périodes, and Partiels were among the first pieces of spectral music. In 1974-75, he studied acoustics with Emile Leipp at the Paris VI University, and in 1980 became a trainee at the IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique). In the same year he went to Berlin as a guest of the D.A.A.D., and afterwards left for the University of California, Berkeley, where he was appointed professor of theory and composition (1982-1986). After returning to Europe, he taught composition at the Conservatoire de Paris, and held numerous composition seminars in France (Centre Acanthes, Lyon, Paris) and abroad (Darmstadt, Freiburg, Milan, Reggio Emilia, Oslo, Helsinki, Malmö, Göteborg, Los Angeles, Stanford, London, Moscow, Madrid, etc.). Gérard Grisey died at the age of 52 in Paris in 1998.
Header: Crash Ensemble. Photo courtesy of artists.
Donnacha Dennehy. Photo courtesy of artist.
Gerard Grisey. Photo courtesy of Casa Ricordi.
Read the Guardian’s ★★★★★ review of Dennehy’s recent opera with Enda Walsh, The Second Violinist
Read Gramophone’s guide to the music of Gérard Grisey