Sound Out presenter Ian McGlynn picks some of his favourite recent releases and recordings you can buy, download or stream...
The New York Concert - Evgeny Kissin & Emerson Quartet (Deutsche Grammophon)
Forget Greg and Amber, this is one of the most exciting partnerships of recent times – an intimate live concert performance with renowned pianist Evgeny Kissin and the esteemed Emerson String Quartet.
Recorded in Carnegie Hall, the programme took in Fauré, Mozart and Dvořák and was a rare opportunity to catch one of the world's finest pianists performing in a chamber setting. A New York Times review described Kissin’s 'unfailingly fine, even touch’ and the Emersons as ‘meltingly individual as they were powerful… in their unified outbursts.’
I loved the exquisite slow movement from Dvorak’s Piano Quintet in A major, Opus 81, Dumka, which is derived from a Ukranian folk song that was a favourite of Dvorak’s.
Donnacha Dennehy: Disposable Dissonance – Third Coast Percussion (New Amsterdam Records)
You know the old saying – you wait ages for a new album from Donnacha Dennehy, and then two arrive at once. You might have recently caught The Hunger at the Abbey Theatre with Iarla O'Lionaird, Katherine Manley and the Crash Ensemble. That’s just been released by Nonesuch Records.
But there’s another fine album of two Dennehy works released recently, from New Amsterdam Records. Namely, Surface Tension performed by Chicago-based Third Coast Percussion, and Disposable Dissonance performed by the Dublin-based Crash Ensemble.
As you might have guessed, Surface Tension is a percussive work, inspired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s historic percussion collection, and Dennehy was inspired by how some indigenous drums (e.g. bodhrán) can bend musical pitches. While Disposable Dissonance, features three continuous sections, each of which explores dissonance in a different way, therefore 'disposing’ of it.
In Absentia: Music by Majd & Tafreshipour - Darragh Morgan, Patrick Savage, Fiona Winning, Deirdre Cooper (Métier Records)
If you like your contemporary music Iranian with a little Irish interest, then this is for you. In Absentia features works for various strings composed by two leading contemporary Iranian composers, both of whom write music with international, wide-ranging ambition. Tafreshipour has composed for the BBC, while Majd studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. Her works include ballet music, chamber orchestral works and film scores, and she says that writing as a female composer under the Iranian regime since 1979 inspires her to work as a teacher and collector of folk tunes, while composing.
This is Dreamland by Majd, which she describes as a piece of illusion. And the Irish interest? Violinist Darragh Morgan.
Ex Oriente: Music by G.I. Gurdjieff - Gunter Herbig (BIS Records)
I've long been intrigued by the mystic, philosopher and Armenian/Greek composer George lvanovich Gurdjieff. He’s an enigmatic figure of the early 20th century who had many devoted followers, and his birth date is listed as anywhere between 1866 and 1877. He spent his early years in north-east Turkey and traveled extensively. This informed not just his life but also his music, and this album explores his fruitful 'second period’.
During this time he worked with Russian composer and pianist Thomas de Hartmann. Gurdjieff would compose works on guitar inspired by the Eastern and Russian sounds he had encountered, while De Hartmann transcribed and ordered them at the piano. On working Gurdjieff, De Hartmann wrote of suddenly hearing Gurdjieff whistling and playing piano with one finger, requiring him to race to his side with paper in hand to capture not only the Eastern sounds, but also the complex rhythms.
The works in their piano format have been performed by artists including Anja Lechner and Keith Jarrett, but this new album sees them re-appropriated for the electric guitar by Gunter Herbig, who describes the guitaristic texture of the pieces that opened the door on the works, and allowed him access.
Ichmouratov: Orchestral Works - Belarusian State Chamber Orchestra, Evgeny Bushkov (Chandos)
The Russian-born, Montreal-based composer Airat Ichmouratov cites Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Mussorgsky as influences. His more recent musical education includes busking on the streets of Montreal with his viola-playing wife, Elvira Misbakhova. His recent album on Chandos Records includes his Concerto Grosso No.1, Op.28 from 2011 and his Three Romances, Op.22 (2009), but I was fascinated by the story behind his Octet in G minor, Op. 56 'Letter from an Unknown Woman.'
This unknown woman writes an unsigned 12-page letter telling of lifelong love to an author, though he is unaware that she bore him after an affair years ago. She cares for the child alone but when the child dies, the unknown woman finds that she cannot continue life. Based on a novella by Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig, the woman of the title writes "I was inexperienced and naïve. I flung myself into my fate as if into an abyss". A tragic story of unrequited love, loss and one woman’s pain.
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.