Embers: Haunting, unsettling evocations of the past

Works by Irish composer Raymond Deane enclose a much longer piece by Ukrainian Valentin Silvestrov

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Artist: Carducci Quartet, Crash Ensemble
Genre: Classical
Label: Louth Contemporary Music Society LCMS2021

Louth Contemporary Music Society’s latest well-played album is a kind of musical sandwich, with works by Irish composer Raymond Deane enclosing a much longer work by Ukrainian Valentin Silvestrov.

Deane is now in his late 60s, Silvestrov in his mid 80s, and the works range in date from 1973 (Deane’s Embers) to 2011 (Silvestrov’s Third Quartet, dedicated to and premièred by the Kronos Quartet). But they have rather more in common than you might expect. They are all pieces unafraid of stillness, of dwelling in the moment through complex evocations of the past, yet also ready to shift gear in unexpected ways.

Deane’s 2005 string trio Marthiya, named after a Middle Eastern and Asian form of elegy, begins with a sense of bleak aftermath, and the composer has said that the atmosphere of mourning is “not unrelated to the devastation wreaked on Iraq since 2003, and to the wider carnage inflicted upon the Arab and Islamic world by the west over the last century”.

The Silvestrov quartet, in which the composer hears “some Irish accent”, is steeped in his familiar nostalgia. Deane’s haunting and unsettling Embers sadly suffers from an over-dry recording, which deadens the evocativeness of the work’s many silences.

Michael Dervan

Michael Dervan

Michael Dervan is a music critic and Irish Times contributor