Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Isabelle O’Connell’s Dark, Deep Reservoir

Irish pianist Isabelle O’Connell’s new album Reservoir is compelling collection of dark, serious solo pieces by contemporary composers from her native land. It’s a mix of the deceptively simple and the rigorously difficult, performed with a grace and dignity that does justice to the intensity of the compositions. The title track, by Donnacha Dennehy, is particularly gripping. With its incessant quarter-note insistence and interlocking astringent chords, it’s evocative of Louis Andriessen and it’s also obviously very difficult to hold on a steady course. O’Connell meets the challenge with a steely resolve. Big, by Ian Wilson, is a smallscale partita with distant echoes of Brahms, moving from a big chordal introduction to scurrying righthand against an incisive staccato, finally winding out on a hypnotic circular phrase. O’Connell follows that with Jane O’Leary’s aptly titled miniature Forgotten Worlds and its terse, rippling glimmer. Seoirse Bodley’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North, a spacious narrative, grows from austerely rustic to more lively as the journey through the brush finally reaches its destination.

John Buckley’s Three Preludes gleam with a bracing disquiet, the first a series of methodically paced, off-center arpeggios; the second, an eerie, chromatically-charged waltz; the third more stately and Chopinesque. Three pieces (nos. 10, 11 and 13) from The Klippel Collection by Brian Irvine offer both satirical and straightforwardly Romantically tinged melody as well as a deliciously Satie-esque prelude of sorts. And Philip Martin’s Along the Flaggy Shore is desolately creepy, a spaciously wintry scene that ends with a single note of vocalese – a ghost, maybe?

There’s also some humor here as well. Elaine Agnew’s Seagull is a playful yet dignified salute to the shorebird – it stops and starts but also gazes out to sea with a wistful poignancy, then takes a briskly tense, perfectly executed walk up and down the beach. And Jennifer Walshe’s Becher is a genuinely hilarious pastiche of dozens of famous intros and outros from Beethoven, Scott Joplin, the Verve, Chopin, and perhaps most amusingly, Grieg, who really gets a sendup here as one of his most famous motifs gets sent up the scale and morphs into the Beatles. O’Connell plays the segues absolutely deadpan and absolutely tight – it’s impossible to resist pausing and then rewinding because the jokes are flying by so fast.

December 1, 2010 Posted by | avant garde music, classical music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment