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Hear Donnacha Dennehy's "Grá agus Bás" in Its Entirety As NPR First Listen

Donnacha Dennehy: "Grá agus Bás" [cover]

With just over a week to go before the May 3 release of Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy's Nonesuch debut album, Grá agus Bás, you can now listen to the album in its entirety till release day on as an NPR First Listen. (Also streaming in full there till tomorrow are two Nonesuch albums due out then: Emmylou Harris's Hard Bargain and James Farm's self-titled debut.) Grá agus Bás includes the title piece, which was inspired by Sean Nós "old style" Irish vocal music, as well as the composer’s song cycle That the Night Come, comprising six settings of poems by W.B. Yeats. The Dublin–based Crash Ensemble performs both works, conducted by Alan Pierson. Irish singer Iarla O’Lionáird is the soloist for Grá agus Bás, while Dawn Upshaw is featured on That the Night Come.

Whatever notions of traditional Irish music you may have, NPR's Anastasia Tsioulcas exclaims, "Prepare to have all those preconceptions blown away by this album from the superb 40-year-old Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy."

The title piece "is full of sounds and textures that are at once haunting and exhilarating," says Tsioulcas. She lauds both the "superb musicianship" from Crash Ensemble and, still more, O’Lionáird's vocals. "His sweet tenor ringing above murmuring strings and winds at the beginning, combined with propulsive, primal rhythms at the end, created for me one of the best and most satisfying listening experiences of the year so far."

In That the Night Come, which Tsioulcas describes as a "ravishing song cycle," Dennehy leads Upshaw "through the piece in a way that shows off her tremendous range and creates a haunting portrait of a wild and tormented soul."

Read more and listen to Grá agus Bás in its entirety till May 3 at To reserve your copy of the album, head to the Nonesuch Store now.

Upshaw—who, with Dennehy, recently completed a Carnegie Hall Professional Training Workshop for composers and singers, as noted in the New York Times—performs at the New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall in Boston this Friday.


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