5 Concerts & Recording Releases the Princeton Composition Faculty are Excited About

Donnacha Dennehy

Professor of Music

We caught up with Donnacha Dennehy – an award-winning composer whose work has been commissioned and premiered by such artists as Alarm Will Sound, Bang On A Can, Dawn Upshaw, Oregon Symphony, and Kronos Quartet, among myriad others – and asked him which five concerts and recording releases he’s excited for this fall. (The following responses were provided in October 2022).

  1. Violin Concerto (U.S. Premiere) w/ Augustin Hadelich

    This month, Augustin Hadelich and the Oregon Symphony, conducted by Markus Stenz, will perform my violin concerto in Portland. The concerto had its world premiere in the Netherlands last year, but since that was at the height of COVID, it almost feels like the actual premiere is coming up now. It’s been a great joy to work with Augustin. It’s been much more in-depth than I would have anticipated – we could almost publish our email correspondence! We talked a lot about the second movement of the concerto, for example, there’s this bit that delves into the sort of interior of overtones (which I do quite often), but in this movement, it felt like this was capsizing the structure of the movement. We went out to dinner in Holland after each performance and talked about not just that, but also everything in the piece. And then I went away and revised. I think I’ve now made it something much clearer and more poetic.

    The Oregon Symphony will also be playing a piece that I’ve never actually heard in the flesh before – Jeu de cartes – so I’m very excited about that. Nearly always, I’m drawn to a repertoire that I don’t know, and that doesn’t necessarily need to be new music – sometimes it’s old music that I don’t know or haven’t heard in the flesh.

    Explore the program here.

  2. Early Music Princeton

    Speaking of old music, there’s an Early Music Princeton concert coming up, conducted by John Butt, that I’m looking forward to. They’ll be playing Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6, a piece that I love. The last time I heard it live was when I lived in Amsterdam and Musica Antiqua Köln, which was an incredible early music ensemble, came and did this rip-roaring performance of it. I’ll be interested to hear a different take on the concerto. There are also some pieces that I don’t know about the program, like a piece by Nicola Porpora, so I’m really interested to hear that. I love early music, and I love viol music in particular. There’s a piece of mine called Tessellatum, which is for viol consort with eleven re-tuned viols and violas, and it’s strongly influenced by the major contrapuntal works of the Renaissance. I often find the moment before tonality became codified into common practice to be very rich. And the idea of spending an afternoon listening to Parsons and Dowland is quite exciting to me.

    Explore the concert here.

  3. Composer Portraits at Miller Theatre

    I’ll be catching the Composer Portraits concert of Luca Francesconi’s music at Miller Theatre in New York in a few weeks. Francesconi is really interesting. I want to call him an Italian modernist, but he really isn’t; he’s the sort of modernist who can’t be pigeonholed. I heard his stuff years ago in France when I was on a residency there, so when my wife, who plays with an ensemble called Ensemble Signal, told me that they were going to be playing in this concert, I was happy for the opportunity to hear Francesconi’s work again.

    Explore the concert here.

  4. Iarla O’Lionáird in conversation w/ Paul Muldoon

    My great friend Iarla O’Lionáird – who I’ve collaborated with on Grá agus Bás, my first Nonesuch release, and then on The Hunger also – is being interviewed by Paul Muldoon as part of the Atelier program with Jennifer Homans, dance critic for The New Yorker, and Darryl McDaniels, from [rap group] Run-D.M.C. It’s a conversation on art-making in a vexed era. I know Paul well; he’s a phenomenal poet with a wonderful gift and way of seeing language – he’s really something. So I’m looking forward to attending that event on campus.

    Explore the talk here.
  1. Tyondai Braxton, Telekinesis

    I’m excited about my colleague Tyondai’s November album release. I actually knew both Tyondai’s and Nathalie Joachim’s (also new on campus this year) music before they came to campus. Nathalie had this great album, Fanm d’Ayiti, a few years ago, which is where I became really familiar with her music. With Tyonadai, we go back even further: we’ve been on concerts together at BAM and also at Carnegie Hall. I’ve known both of their music for a while, so it’s just great to have them here on campus. And to get a preview of this great new album that Tyondai is releasing has been wonderful – it’s really something else.

    Explore Tyondai’s album here.

  2. Princeton Sound Kitchen

    And one bonus mention: I’m running the Princeton Sound Kitchen this year and we are putting on a very full program of events. It’s been a lot of fun. You know, always when I go to concerts or listen to albums, they’re triggering ideas for my composition, my programming, and my teaching. I wrote this big piece for Alarm Will Sound, for example, where I’m sort of translating ideas from electronic sound into writing for instruments, and I’m really interested in maybe developing a new instrumentation course based on some of these ideas. Our upcoming PSK concert will be with my colleague Juri Seo at the end of November, and I’m really excited to put this one on.

    Explore the concert here.

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