Sound Out presenter Ian McGlynn chooses four of his favourite new releases featured in February that you might have missed...
‘Masterly and addictive’ is how cellist Steven Isserlis describes the Shostakovich Cello Sonata in D Minor, from his latest album recorded with his frequent collaborator, Olli Mustonen. In fact, Steven told me via Twitter how much he enjoyed making the album, and why he and Olli work so well together:
Thanks! I especially enjoyed making this one, because Olli and I are recording-compatible - ie we wanted to go on recording for the same amount of time before taking a break, and wanted to record the pieces in the same order. That happens quite rarely, in fact.— Steven Isserlis (@StevenIsserlis) February 1, 2019
Shostakovich wrote the Sonata during an infamous affair with Elena Konstantinovskaya while still married to Nina Varzar. (He did chose to stay with Nina in the end and conveyed this to a friend in a telegram - Remaining in Leningrad. Nina pregnant. Remarried.)
The work was written at a time when Shostakovich was trying to find simpler, clearer ways of writing music, because he felt his fellow composers were only interested in orchestral music. This is the lush, romantic-sounding opening movement.
The Air, Turning – Edmund Finnis (NMS Records)
NMC make regular appearances on Sound Out, as they work with some of the most exciting young composers today, mainly from the UK but sometimes with Irish artists too. They recently released an album of works by composer Edmund Finnis, with a very starry line-up of musicians including the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, pianist Víkingur Ólafsson and the Britten Sinfonia.
The album gives us a sense of the breadth of his work, including smaller chamber works, soundtracks and orchestral pieces. And the title track The Air, Turning arose from a central idea that music is just vibrating air and the sensation of sound moving around us. It’s performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ilan Volkov.
This is music composed by Bendict Schlepper Connolly, one of the founding members of the Dublin-based label, Ergodos Records. Schlepper Connolly wrote it with two artists in mind - a transatlantic pairing of violinist Yuki Numata Resnick (regular collaborator with Beirut and The National) and cellist Kate Ellis (currently Artistic Director of Crash Ensemble).
Connolly wrote about the piece that it ‘takes two threads of striking individual colour and weaves them to form a delicately beautiful fabric’.
becher from Reservoir – Isabelle O’Connell (Diatribe Records)
This isn’t exactly a new release, but I wanted to play something connected to the fantastic New Music Dublin festival that happened at the end of February.
One of the most exciting composers taking part was Jennifer Walshe, a piece called The Site of an Investigation. Jennifer describes the work as taking in our contemporary predicament, microplastics, Facebook likes, grief, precarity, interplanetary colonisation, artificial intelligence and loss. She even performed the work herself, with a little help from the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jean Deroyer.
This is my roundabout way of leading you to a track called becher by Walshe, an incredible mashup of well-known piano pieces from across the eons. Beethoven, Chopin, Nirvana and Radiohead all get a look in and it’s performed here by pianist Isaballe O Connell, from her 2010 album Reservoir. Maybe we should offer a prize for identifying all the pieces…
Ian McGlynn presents Sound Out every Sunday evening 9-10pm on RTÉ lyric fm, an exploration of the latest music from Irish and international artists and composers, including a weekly gig guide and a listen to new releases - listen back here.