• Donnacha Dennehy
  • Limina: a concerto for piano and ensemble (2023)

  • G Schirmer Inc (World)

Commissioned by Eliza McCarthy, with funds from the Arts Council of Ireland, and Contemporaneous

Commissioner exclusivity applies

Soloist exclusivity applies through April 2025.

  • pf + 1(pic).1.1(Ebcl,bcl).1/1.1(pictpt,flg).1.0/perc/cel/str ( or
  • Piano
  • 28 min

Programme Note

Composer note:

I. Head
II. Chest
III. Nervous System

Of late, I have been quite invigorated by the concerto dynamic, in ways that were surprising to me before I started writing them. I recently composed a large-scale Violin Concerto for Augustin Hadelich and was struck by how addictive an endeavor I found it. In this new piece, Limina, the interaction between the soloist and so-called mass occurs in a leaner chamber context. Written especially for Eliza McCarthy, Crash Ensemble’s brilliant resident pianist, each movement transcends the threshold initially established for it: Head, Chest and Nervous System (which starts right in the gut in this instance). The idea of transcending a threshold is kind of essential to the whole piece on many levels in fact, as is the creation of them in the first place. The first movement begins restively in the head register and gradually yields joyfully to the gravity of the lower register as it proceeds. Meanwhile there is a kind of parallel development in which all the ensemble plays broken unisons with the piano, which eventually lodge to produce counterpoints with the ever-evolving patterns of the piano. The second movement transcends the chest tessitura that houses a more melodic, slowly evolving variation on a 16th century In Nomine melodic fragment (that itself inspired a whole genre of viol consort music in the Renaissance). This time the piano ornaments upon a rhythmic (but not pitch) unison that expands and contracts in palindromes, only eventually to break free from it. For the final movement, I analyzed a lower note on the piano, and then took the time-varying partials of that and basically chopped it up rhythmically to make a fierce propulsive pulsing evolving chord that builds from the gut of the piano. In this movement, the piano and ensemble are bound together. The piano drives the ensemble but rarely separates from it – it feels part of the collective. Gradually this movement too transcends the threshold of the pulsed spectrum to make nerve connections as it were with the earlier two movements.

—Donnacha Dennehy




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