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Hennessy: Complete String Quartets, Serenade & String Trio / RTE Contempo Quartet


Release Date: 04/26/2019 
Label:  Rte Lyric Fm   Catalog #: 159  
Number of Discs: 1 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Swan Hennessy’s compositions owe a debt to the French impressionists but have a power all of their own, evoking the spirit of the Irish independence movement and Celticism without any sense of pastiche. Whatever about Hennessy’s Irish DNA, there is no doubt about his feelings for the country: “it is the love of Ireland that has inspired my work” he said in 1923. This affection for his ancestral homeland is reflected keenly in all bar one of the works on this album. His String Quartet No.2 is dedicated to the memory of Terence MacSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork, who died of hunger strike in an English prison. Characterized by a minor key opening to suggest the suffering of MacSwiney, it ends on a more optimistic C major finale. Hennessy’s String Read more Quartet No.1 (Suite) borrows two traditional dance tunes from the Petrie Collection, creating an exuberant counterpoint to the overall light-hearted French style of the composition. Taking this a step further his String Quartet No.3 uses the idioms of traditional music but in a completely original way while his Petit trio celtique, Op. 52 utilizes similar techniques to create an engaging work. Clearly, as a composer, Hennessy’s interests are in tonal composition and even with the chromatic, less descriptive writing in his String Quartet No.4, the overall effect remains firmly in the mainstream of European art music. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in his Sérénade Op.65, a short, single movement work that starts somberly but ends in an upbeat Celtic style, making one wonder why it has not been a favorite encore of all Irish string quartets in the past decades. The chamber music of Swan Hennessy on the CD is worth rediscovering and is another addition to the critically acclaimed catalogue of Irish composers and musicians available from RTÉ lyric fm. Read less

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Cast in the Celtic spirit March 9, 2020 By Ralph Graves (Hood, VA) See All My Reviews "Swan Hennessy (1866-1929) was born in Illinois. But this Irish-American never forgot his roots. In fact, as a composer, he embraced them. Hennessy wrote in an Impressionist style heavily influenced by Irish and Breton folk music. Hennessy wrote six works for string quartet - four numbered quartets, plus two shorter works. The first quartet was published in 1912, the last in 1929. While there's a strong Celtic flavor to all these works, there's also clear development over time. The first quartet borders on a pastiche of Celtic music set for string quartet. It's very appealing melodically, though rather simple in texture. The last two quartets, though, show Hennessy's full integration of his influences. Sections of the melodies do have an Irish lilt to them. Overall, however, the music has an organic development to it not hindered by Celtic mannerisms. The RTE Contempo Quartet was the right choice to record this material. They have a rich, warm ensemble sound that's perfectly in line with Impressionist sensibilities. Yet they also understand the Celtic elements of Hennessy's works. They successfully bring out those elements without leaning too heavily into them. The Celtic elements of Hennessy's music might not appeal to everyone. But they certainly did to me. Hennessy once said, "it is the love of Ireland that has inspired my work." It does, indeed." Report Abuse
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