Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Reservoir Tip

You guys, we need to start listening to more Donnacha Dennehy. Donnacha Dennehy, you need to start putting out more CDs! I keep hearing all these great pieces of his on New Sounds or in concert and then looking for CDs of them and no they haven't been released yet!

But some of his stuff is in print, and one more piece has just trickled out: Reservoir, a solo piano work he wrote for Isabelle O'Connell. O'Connell's on keys in his Dublin-based ensemble CRASH, conducted by Alan Pierson of Alarm Will Sound fame, and the focus on her latest disc (also called Reservoir) is on Irish composers, which is fantastic, because the East Coast new-music scene can get so provincial, right? Sometimes it seems like we're all just playing each other's stuff up here, and so it's quite nice to get a hot injection of fresh meat from the British Isles.

And this is a terrific array of composers. There's the title track, of course, which reminds me of the surprisingly intense effusions of sentiment that you'll hear in a Terry Riley piece, but I was also quite taken with the Ligeti-like relentlessness of Brian Irvine's three movements from The Klippel Collection. The one piece that didn't appeal to me was Jennifer Walshe's becher, a collage of musical quotations from rock and classical music, which seemed conceptually facile—each quotation seemed designed to elicit an easy "ah-ha!", like some cross between a Music Appreciation drop-the-needle quiz and the trailers for EPIC MOVIE—but it also serves as a phenomenal showcase for O'Connell's stylistic versatility, as does the disc as a whole. These composers don't have all that much in common other than a knack for virtuoso piano writing (quick namedump: Ian Wilson, Jane O'Leary, Seóirse Bodley, John Buckley, Elaine Agnew, Philip Martin, CHECK 'EM OUT, ALL OF 'EM), and O'Connell comes through in a big way.

The last time I was this pleasantly surprised by a disc was Danny Holt's A Fast Jump, another new-music solo recital by a pianist who isn't as famous as he ought to be; the other thing these two discs have in common is the quality of the recording. O'Connell's piano thunders and sings and sounds great. Reservoir's out now on Diatribe Records (you can order here), and I basically have no idea what's a "Diatribe Records," but apparently they know how to record an album there.

You can also hear Reservoir, the piece, when O'Connell plays it at the First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn on November 5. I know you'll be disappointed to learn that the rest of the music is by regular old Americans, but I promise that these are totally underplayed Americans—John Luther Adams, Bunita Marcus, James Mobberley—and the other act on the bill is Flutronix, a flute duo whose recordings play automatically (you've been warned!) at the bottom of their homepage. (I highly recommend the second track, Stacked, by flutronicist Allison Loggins-Hull.) That's 7:30 p.m., admission only $10.

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