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Grá agus Bás
Nonesuch releases its first recording of music by the Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy, Grá agus Bás, on May 3, 2011. The album includes the title piece, which translates as Love and Death, as well as the composer’s song cycle That the Night Come. The Dublin–based Crash Ensemble—which Dennehy co-founded—performs both works, conducted by Alan Pierson. Irish singer Iarla O’Lionáird is the soloist for Grá agus Bás, while American soprano, and longtime Nonesuch artist, Dawn Upshaw is featured on That the Night Come.
Written especially for Iarla O’Lionáird and the Crash Ensemble, Grá agus Bás is inspired by a number of sean-nós songs. (Sean-nós is a type of unaccompanied Irish vocal music; translated as the “old style” or “old tradition,” it is transmitted from generation to generation orally.) The work explores the themes of love and death in a non-narrative context. That the Night Come, written for Dawn Upshaw and the Crash Ensemble, comprises six settings of poems by W.B. Yeats. Dennehy says: “Yeats’ repeating obsessions with unattainable love, his longing for the fullness of experience, his anger at fleeting happiness, and the certainty of time’s ravage and death are obsessions that I share.”
Donnacha Dennehy, who lives in Dublin and teaches composition at Trinity College, has received critical acclaim for his work, with the New York Times calling a recent piece “magnificently energetic,” and The Wire saying that he “has a soundworld all his own.” He has received commissions from Dawn Upshaw, WNYC (for the Bang on a Can All-Stars), Icebreaker, the Percussion Group of the Hague, and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, among others. Upcoming commissions include a major new work for Nonesuch artists Kronos Quartet.
Iarla O’Lionáird was born in the West Cork gaeltacht area of Cuil Aodha, where his mother taught him many traditional songs, passed down from her mother and her sister. He began performing at the age of five, with radio broadcasts and recording soon following. O’Lionáird also performed with Cor Chuil Aodha and was the lead singer for the Afro Celt Sound System. Since then he has composed for radio, film, and TV and released three solo albums. His latest solo album Foxlight (Realworld) is due for release this May.
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