MusicReview

Ailís Ní Ríain: The Last Time I Died - Independent, exploratory and quirky

The title of this album of compositions for toy piano refers to the composer’s sixth year of sobriety

Ailís Ní Ríain The Last Time I Died
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Artist: Various performers
Genre: Classical
Label: NMC

The three-minute work that opens this 10-work album of Cork composer Ailís Ní Ríain’s chamber music is for one of the strangest instruments that serious composers take seriously. The toy piano sounds a bit like an enfeebled, hungover celesta. In Ní Ríain’s Soberado, played by Xenia Pestova Bennett, it treads an intriguingly unpredictable and angular path. The title connects with the fact that the work was composed coming up to the composer’s sixth year of sobriety.

The album is a collection of miniatures. The largest is the 15-minute Revelling/Reckoning for solo percussion (Evelyn Glennie) and wind (the New London Chamber Ensemble under Darren Bloom). It is busily driven, then sparse and uncertain and, finally, calm. The composer plays in Hiding Out ‘neath the Everything for violin (Darragh Morgan) and pre-recorded altered piano (a soundworld that segues nicely from toy piano) and Seahorse [Long Snouted], for altered piano, like a ruminative improvisation over a busy background. Parambassis for bass clarinet and recorder (Paul Roe and Laoise O’Brien) is so utterly different from Consent #7 for bass clarinet (Sarah Watts) and bass flute (Carla Rees), one like chalk and cheese, the other almost chalk and chalk. Watch out, too, for Brief-Blue-Electric-Bloom: Thank You for cimbalom (Tim Williams) and guitar (Tom McKinney). This album shows a voice that is independent, exploratory and quirky. The composer’s Watershed features in a recital by Julia Comparini (contralto) and Yonit Kosovvske (piano) in Thomastown at 4pm on Sunday 17th.

Michael Dervan

Michael Dervan

Michael Dervan is a music critic and Irish Times contributor