Photos of Valentyn Silvestrov Drogheda
Louth Contemporary Music Society’s first cd A Place Between has received excellent reviews in the international music press.
In an age of anxiety and conflict, this music looks to higher levels of consciousness to provide reassurance. Regardless of whether you share such faith, there is no doubting the beauty of the music or the sincerity and conviction of these excellent performances. Barry Witherden BBC Music Magazine Review September 2009 Performance **** Recording ****
The godfathers of spiritual minimalism in a beautifully understated recording. Gramophone
Expertly recorded in St Peter’s Church of Ireland, Drogheda, in Ireland, ‘A Place Between’ offers an oasis of calm amid the turmoil of modern life. International Record Review
A selection of the reviews are available below.
Gramophone describes A Place Between as a beautifully understated recording in Gramophone Magazine Oct.09.
The godfathers of spiritual minimalism in a beautifully understated recording.
It’s difficult not to become increasingly sceptical about the way record companies exploit the commercial success of so-called “spiritual minimalist” composers such as Arvo Pärt, Górecki and Tavener, despite the fact that their music is fundamentally anti-materialistic. Many have also been cynical about the term “spiritual minimalism”-not least the composers themselves-as a catch all branding gimmick, but A Place Between does much to reinforce the view that in fact a common bond unites them.
Don’t expect to hear unbridled virtuousity or showmanship here; lento is about as dynamic as it gets, at least on the surface level. However, there are moments of understated beauty, notably in Valentin Silvestrov’s Lullaby for violin and piano. Written to commemorate the centenary of Tchaikovsky’s death, a series of hauntin melodic variations are woven in the violin around a descending, chaconne-like chord progression, with the piano progressively reinforcing each melodic statement. Russian minimalist Alexander Knaifel also inhabits a similar musical universe, as heard here in O Heavenly King.
Silvestrov’s Lullaby is more immediately expressive than Part’s similarly conceived and better known Spiegel im Spiegel. His music is represented here in Hymn to a Great City for two pianos ( multitracked on this recording by the talented Michael McHale): a cleverly constructed ”mirror” of imperfect-perfect cadences (ie C major to G major and back again). If the majority of the disc’s music appears to be in suspended animation, Gorecki’s Good Night brings proceedings almost to a standstill, with the final movement “sounding out” in complete silence. Appropriate then that the dreamy In a Landscape by the patron saint of silence himself, John Cage, should round things off. Pwyll ap Sion.
Music Web International
The inaugural recording by the Louth Contemporary Music Society offers religious minimalism in a range of flavours. It’s essentially an ambient album, subdued chamber music recorded in the warm acoustic of a large church, but the choice of works and composers makes for a varied programme.
The performances are of a consistently high standard, and a special mention should be made of the ensemble’s guest star, the soprano Patricia Rozario, although her two short appearances are all too brief. Good recorded sound too, although the church acoustic is perhaps a little overly resonant, even for that ‘ambient’ sound. The halo around the solo piano in this environment is strikingly similar to that of many of the ECM recordings of works by some of these composers. The economic success and iconic status of those recordings would be a laudable goal for this and future recording projects from the contemporary music enthusiasts of Louth. Music Web International 2nd Review
International Record Review Sept 2009
All of the works on this disc could be said to address some deep spiritual or philosophical need; a glance at the names of the composers represented here should also give you an idea of the dominant mood, which is one of contemplative calm. Yet monotony is avoided, largely through the variety of styles and instrumentation and of the quality of the performances, which are first-rate. It’s hard to believe that the likes of Tavener, Pärt and Górecki started out as hard-edged avant-garde composers; although in many ways their decision to move in the opposite direction of their peers could be seen as terribly avant-garde in itself, or at least post-Modern.
Tavener’s Ikon of Joy/Sorrow here receives its first recording, the drone-and-chant texture simply and movingly realized by the Callino Quartet, while Pärt’s timeless-sounding Da pacem Domine, in a world première recording of the string quartet version, is rendered with the same sensitivity. Pärt’s Hymn to a Great City for two pianos meanwhile has a multi-tracked Michael McHale inhaling the perfumed air of the composer’s hypnotic repeated notes and spare progressions which later blossom into delicate arpeggios.
Górecki’s Good Night (In Memoriam Michael Vyner) was written in 1990 in honour of the late artistic director of the London Sinfonietta and is cast in three movements. In both the opening ‘Lento’ and closing ‘Lento-largo’,McHale (on piano) and flautist Vourneen Ryan successfully capitalize on the sparseness of the writing to create an atmosphere of awe and mystery that is magnified in the last movement by soprano Patricia Rozario and percussionist Stephen Kelly. The middle ‘Lento tranquillissimo’ is also minimal in its scoring but the musicians manage to negotiate an impressive climax without destroying the overall effect.
The religious tenor of Alexander Knaifel’s music quickly got him into trouble with the Soviet authorities and in 1979 he was blacklisted by Tikhon Khrennikov,
Secretary of the Union of Soviet Composer. His transparent, crystalline O Heavenly King dates from 1994 but was revised in 2004 and it’s this version,for string quartet, soprano, piano and celeste that we hear here. Noted Tavener interpreter Rozario again shows her affinity for this style of music, as do McHale and the Callino Quartet.
The Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov provides two further world première recordings in his Ikon for string quartet and ‘Lullaby’ from 25.X.1893 … P. I. Tchaikovsky. The ghostly viol-consort sound of the former contrasts with the simple berceuse-like melody, played with an expansive cantabile by violinist Ioana Petcu-Colan over a descending ground bass of the latter. John Cage’s ten-minute work for solo piano In a Landscape, with which McHale brings this disc to a tranquil close, is perhaps atypical of the composer’s style, with Cage availing himself of traditional melody and harmony to weave a gentle composition of enormous general appeal.
Expertly recorded in St Peter’s Church of Ireland, Drogheda, in Ireland, ‘A Place Between’ offers an oasis of calm amid the turmoil of modern life. Though with the music asking far more questions than it answers, the experience is far from an anodyne one. Robert Levett http://recordreview.co.uk/index.php
BBC Music Magazine Review September 2009
The inclusion of John Cage alongside a number of so-called holy minimalists seems surprising, but the ‘hook’ for this collection is the effect that profound religious and cultural encounters have had on the composers, and Cage was a pioneer in incorporating lessons from Eastern philosophies and artistic stances. His serene 1948 work In a Landscape is given a sensitive reading by Michael McHale. If you thought there was nothing more to Cage than conceptual gimmicks, then this may well make you think again.
The rest of the composers featured here are less controversial, but no less significant to the state of serious music at the turn of the millennium. All the pieces were composed (or, in the case of Pärt ’s hymn to New York, radically revised) within the last two decades. Almost all are receiving premiere recordings or premieres in these versions. In an age of anxiety and conflict, this music looks to higher levels of consciousness to provide reassurance. Regardless of whether you share such faith, there is no doubting the beauty of the music or the sincerity and conviction of these excellent performances.
Classic FM Magazine gave the LCMS cd A Place Between an excellent 4* review in the September 2009 edition.
“If you’re someone for whom contemporary music is a dissonant turn-off, then this could be the disc that converts you. The varied programme of short, often minimalist chamber music includes premiere recordings by Knaifel, Tavener, Pärt and Silvestrov, all inspired in some way by religious or cultural encounters. Inevitably then, the music is down-tempo, but it’s comtemplative rather than syrupy. It’s hard to single out favourites, but soprano Patricia Rozario is at her golden-hued best in Knaifel’s ‘O Heavenly King’, while Silvestrov’s string quartet, ‘Ikon’, is beautifully reminiscent of 16th-century viol music.”
Musicweb International Review July 2009
Louth Contemporary Music Society have here added to the blooming renaissance in approachable music of our time. I say ‘our time’ even though the composers were variously born in the 1930s and 1940s. Tavener’s Ikon of Joy and Sorrow is in the meditative minimalist caste of Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel but for string quartet. The Callino Quartet give a concentrated version but their violins do sound – presumably deliberately – rather skeletal. Pärt’s splash-swirling Hymn to a Great City for solo piano is cleanly laid out and brought to a logical and rounded close. Knaifel’s unhurriedly soliloquising O heavenly king is for string quartet, soprano, piano and celesta. The singing recalls the solo line in Gorecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs chimed around by celesta and piano and by the slow projection of lines from the quartet. Silvestrov’s Ikon for string quartet proceeds quietly in devout contemplative gait while the same composer’s Tchaikovsky Lullaby for violin and piano has that same dreamy and faintly melancholy air.?Pärt’s Da Pacem Domine is soused in the atmosphere of medieval mysteries.Goodnight by Gorecki, whose Symphony I mentioned earlier, wrote the three movement 27 minute piece in memoriam Michael Vyner. It is the most complex of the works here and across its three Lentos has a subdued iterative character. Prayer and meditation are the order of the day. Cage’s name like that of Stockhausen often sends people into meltdown, freefall or a rush to the shelters. His 1948 In a Landscape is a remarkably delicate conception. Its softly chiming piano solo runs to 10:18. The hushed slowness, toll and eddying carillon of this music is wonderfully restful. It would nicely balance Maxwell Davies’s Farewell to Stromness, another lovely approachable piece from a composer people at one time loved to fear.?The notes are perceptive and helpful.This is an enlightened project and its funders deserve praise as much as the musical and technical teams: Music Network/Arts Council Music and the Arts Offices of Drogheda, Louth and Dundalk.Rob Barnett
Sunday Business Post Sunday, June 14, 2009 Reviewed by Dick O’Riordan
Since its formation in 2006, the Louth Contemporary Music Society has carved a very effective and identifiable niche for itself in Irish music, and by its achievements in attracting world-class performers such as Arvo Pärt , Joanna McGregor and Terry Riley.The society’s first compilation of various works by composers past and present forms a spiritual landscape embracing the mystical and the meditative.Irish musicians, playing with compelling beauty, perform all of the works on this CD. The players include the Callino Quartet, violinist Ioana Petcu-Colan, pianist Michael McHale, flautist Vourneen Ryan and percussionist Stephen Kelly. There is also some exquisite singing of ethereal quality by soprano Patricia Rozario.?Although it is difficult to single out any particular items in this collection, Part’s Hymn to a Great City – an uplifting two-piano tribute to New York – knocked me back through the purity of sound achieved by the overlapping of two separate recording tracks by McHale.This young award-winning Belfast pianist has an intuitive feel for music, and can cross musical boundaries effortlessly. Petcu-Colan plays again with McHale in a world premiere recording of Valentin Silvestrov’s 25 X 1893, a harrowingly exquisite, lullaby like tribute tribute to Tchaikovsky.Other composers covered include Tavener, Knaifel, Górecki and Cage. A Place Between is an instantly appealing CD whose hidden beauties and depths are revealed through repeated listening.
French Review La Vie Magazine Richard Holding
Musique contemporaine (CD). Osons cette affirmation de luxe : voici un magnifique album de musique contemporaine qui risque fort de faire vibrer la corde sensible de ses auditeurs… Affirmation de luxe car avouons-le, la musique classique d’aujourd’hui est souvent déroutante pour un public en quête d’émotions nouvelles.?La recherche de la beauté, celle qui procure du plaisir au sens le plus direct et immédiat, n’est plus la préoccupation essentielle des compositeurs chez qui concept précède émotion. Cependant, certains créateurs d’abord attirés par l’avant-garde, se sont ensuite radicalement reconvertis à des procédés musicaux plus simples, plus parlants pour l’âme et le cœur.?C’est le cas de John Tavener, Arvo Pärt, Valentin Silvestrov, Henryk Gorecki, Alexander Knaifel et John Cage, réunis sur le présent enregistrement. Compositeurs nés dans la première moitié du XXe siècle, leurs œuvres de maturité ont en commun une profonde inspiration religieuse et spirituelle. Un thème qui sert de fil conducteur au programme de ce très beau disque conçu comme une invitation à la prière et à la contemplation. Couleurs cristallines, sonorités douces et paisibles caractérisent cette suite de pièces méditatives, parfois poignantes. Servies par d’excellents musiciens, elles offrent à l’auditeur une expérience musicale bouleversante, une évasion dans les profondeurs de cette « région intermédiaire » décrite par le mystique Thomas Merton (1915-68) et qui donne son titre à l’album (A place between) : « le cœur sage demeure dans l’espoir et la contradiction, dans la douleur et la joie … le cœur sage vit dans le Christ ».?Nul besoin d’être expert pour ressentir la force du langage épuré de ces grands noms d’aujourd’hui ; le mélomane est fasciné par l’idée de se savoir le témoin vivant d’une création contemporaine qui réponde avec immédiateté à ses besoins. Ils sont les Bach, Mozart et Schubert de notre temps.
Des Fitzgerald Artbeat Dublin City FM
LCMS’s first CD has just been released; entitled ‘A Place Between’, it includes world première recordings of works by John Tavener, Arvo Pärt, and Valentin Silvestrov. It’s a stunning achievement both in terms of the music selected but also the beautiful acoustic achieved by the recording team in St. Peter’s Church of Ireland, Drogheda. The recording is garnering praise from many quarters. Artbeat
John Kelly, JK Ensemble RTÉ Lyric fm
Hats off the louth cms for producing such a beautiful thing. An excellent primer for anybody looking for an entrance to contemporary music.
From an Overgrown Path
My own words about the Louth Contemporary Music Society’s new CD,A Place Between, will be brief. That opening quote from Martin Adams’ excellent booklet essay shows that this CD is put together by people who know, and care, about contemporary music. If you are a regular reader you will know the type of music that features regularly on this blog; the track listing above shows you are going to find it on A Place Between. The quality of the music is, needless to say, outstanding. It is matched in quality by the performances, by the packaging (from which all my graphics are taken), and by the sound captured in St. Peters Church of Ireland, Drogheda. The folks at Louth Contemporary Music have their priorities sorted. No celebrities talking the music up, but instead well deserved photos and credits for producer Eamonn Quinn and sound engineer Peer Espen. If I were CEO of a major corporate record label I would send a copy of A Place Between to every member of my classical division. And I would demand an explanation as to why an impecunious independent label can produce something this important, while my own staff continue schmoozing teenage opera stars at industry award events. An Overgrown Path”
Louth Contemporary Music Society (LCMS) celebrates some of the most world’s most popular contemporary composers in its first-ever CD. The new disc is titled A Place Between, and features world première recordings of works by John Tavener, Arvo Pärt, Valentin Silvestrov, Alexander Knaifel as well as pieces by Henryk Górecki and John Cage. All of these composers have, in various ways, been deeply influenced by profound spiritual, religious or cultural encounters. The CD, which is released on the Society’s Louth Contemporary Music Label on 1 May 2009, comes in a beautiful limited edition release.
The new release features a number of world renowned performers including the soprano Patricia Rozario, the Callino Quartet, pianist Michael McHale, violinist Ioana Petcu-Colan, flautist Vourneen Ryan and percussionist Stephen Kelly. The recordings were made in the acoustically superb historic setting of St. Peter’s Church of Ireland in Drogheda, and the mixing, mastering and editing were carried out in the state-of-the-art Rainbow Studios in Oslo. A Place Between is available for purchase both as a CD and online at the iTunes Store and CD Baby from 1 May 2009.
The CD intersperses, to wonderful effect, beautiful works for string quartet (Silvestrov’s meditative “Ikon”, Tavener’s deeply moving “Ikon of Joy/Sorrow,” Pärt’s reflective “Da Pacem Domine”) with two solo piano works (Pärt’s uplifting “Hymn to a Great City,” Cage’s melodic and expressive “In a Landscape”). Górecki’s memorial for Michael Vyner “Good Night” and Knaifel’s mystical “O Heavenly King” both feature the haunting voice of soprano Patricia Rozario. Silvestrov’s 25.X.1893 lullaby is a melancholic and lyrical piece for violin and piano.
A Place Between is presented with funding from the Music Network/Arts Council Music ~Recording Scheme 2008, and financially supported by Drogheda Arts Office, Louth County Arts Office and Dundalk Arts Office.
FIELDS OF BLUE AND WHITE
A recital of original music for piano and the launch of local composer Michael Holohan’s CD ‘Fields of Blue and White’ was held in the National Concert Hall Dublin on 6 November 2009.
Works by Michael Holohan to include Monaincha, Carving the High Cross, The Listoke Preludes and other piano pieces. Fields of Blue and White is Michael Holohan’s first full-length CD performed by the eminent pianist Thérèse Fahy. The cd includes works which have been commissioned by the National Concert Hall and the AXA Dublin International Piano Competition.
Review of performance
The Irish Times – Monday, November 9, 2009
Thérèse Fahy (piano)
NCH John Field Room, Dublin THIS RECITAL marked the launch of, and consisted of music from, Thérèse Fahy’s new CD of works by Michael Holohan, Fields of Blue and White . Sampling Holohan’s output over more than 30 years, the CD places particular emphasis on his favourite genre, the pictorial miniature.
Its two longest tracks, Monaincha (2002) and Carving the High Cross (2006, revised 2009) were included in Fahy’s live programme, together with the three medium sized Listoke Preludes (2000, revised 2009) and four items of between two and three minutes’ duration.
The intuitive Irishness of Holohan’s work recalls the musical nationalism particularly of Grieg, for whom the folkloric application of cosmopolitan technique worked best on a small scale. It’s thus in the most compact sketch, rather than on a wider and more expressionistic canvas, that Holohan’s fusion of styles is at its most convincing.
By a River (1985) generates a sense of calculated accessibility; there are pleasingly harmonic touches to Aoise (1988) and Ommagio (1996), while Capranica (2008), a distant nocturnal image of the Italian town, articulates itself largely without the need for cadential stereotypes.
While the twisted gothic imagery of Monaincha and Carving the High Cross retained its rough-hewn, native aspects, in The Listoke Preludes Fahy’s advocacy fully brought out a thoughtful counterpoint of structure and texture.
Louth Contemporary Music Society feature as one of the Irish Times’ critic highlights for 2009
Jane O’Leary’s Concorde and Donnacha Dennehy’s Crash Ensemble have had the new music scene to themselves for far too long. Well, that’s what a younger generation seems to think, with a hive of mostly composer-driven new music activity from Ensemble ICC, Ergodos, the New Sound Worlds series and various other enterprises, including a series of international portraits by the Louth Contemporary Music Society. So far, the diversification has been all to the good.
Louth Contemporary Music Society’s cd A Place Between is listed on the New Sounds Listener Poll 2009 from WNYC, New York Public Radio.
The rules are simple: choose 5 (five) entries, released in 2009. The poll closes at 12PM E.S.T. on 1/7/10.
To have your vote count, choose at least one release, but no more than five. One vote per person, please.
LCMS cd is listed under Callino Quartet and Patricia Rozario.
If you would like to vote for the cd, please go here. It takes about 30 seconds.
On December 14th 1909, explorer Ernest Shackleton was in Dublin, lecturing at UCD about his Nimrod Antarctic expedition.
Next week, exactly 100 years on, composer Michael Holohan will commemorating the moment with a new piece of music theatre http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/features/2009/1211/1224260495694.htm
TAVENER, PÄRT, GÓRECKI…
A Place Between
Contemporary music recordings don’t tend to feature in top ten lists, partly because lack of air-time on radio is matched by audience lack of familiarity. While some composers, such as John Tavener, Henryck Górecki and Arvo Pärt, have crossed that line into popular consciousness: others, such as the late John Cage, still inspire apprehensive glances.
This CD from the Louth Contemporary Music Society, however, reveals what a wealth of enjoyable music there is to be found even from composers such as Cage, with his softly spoken In A Landscape from 1948.
Nor do the others disappoint: even Valentin Silvestrov’s near- minimalist compositions are a thorough delight.
Download this: 25.X.1893… P.I. Tchaikovsky
• This article was first published in Scotland on Sunday on 24 January, 2010
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