Live Reviews: Raymond Deane – Concursus (world première)

Irish Chamber Orchestra Raymond Deane: Concursus (world première); Thurs 21 April 2005 St Mary’s Church, Mallow, Co. Cork; Katherine Hunka, Director

Raymond Deane’s Concursus, written for the Irish Chamber Orchestra to whom it is collectively dedicated, received its final performance on the ICO Audi Spring Tour in St Mary’s Church, Mallow. The cruciform/shoebox shaped church lent a wonderfully warm, immediate and bass-rich sound and it should immediately enter into any serious sound engineers list of excellent recording spaces. It also allowed very fine localisation of the instruments, something not immediately associated with such spaces, yet, as it turned out, integral to the success of the piece. According to Deane, ‘the title implies both competition and confluence’, although another definition is to be found in the Catholic Encyclopedia where ‘it is an examination for all aspirants to ecclesiastical offices to which is attached the cure of souls’.

Concursus is scored for violin, viola, double string ensemble and double bass. It has an intense focus that balances highly contrasting areas by using a wide range of approaches on both micro and macro structural levels. The concept of confluence plays an important role and throughout there is a sense that Deane has attained a new level of equilibrium here. The violin and viola are the main soloists and stand centre stage with the two groups of strings arranged in concentric rings symmetrically to either side.

Concursus opens with a resigning four-note motif which is at the core of the piece and is borrowed from an earlier work. This acts as a waypoint for the many dimensions through which one passes. It also acts as an impulse that disperses energy out to the sides which echo out spatially and occasionally reflect back to the centre. I found this deliberate negation of an architectonically biased approach very engaging although it was less apparent in the second half of the work. Despite the essentially lyrical material lying at the core, Concursus touches the extremities of both consonance/dissonance and order/disorder.

Towards the beginning there is a hint of Lontano as the music resolves into an unexpected major chord, but like Ligeti’s piece, Concursus too moves on and beyond these calms. A mesmerising interplay of synchronous/asynchronous descending patterns is introduced in the last third and in the final passages a calmness is followed by silence but this too is lingered on only briefly as dense and fierce clouds emerge.

At times I longed for slightly more contrasting dynamics, particularly when the ensemble acted as a framing device for the soloists. Apart from this the ICO’s performance was passionate and engaging which was reflected in the people of Mallow’s ardent response. Concursus is a substantial work, which manages to contain an expansive range of approaches, reflecting the depth of experience of this now well established composer.

Concursus is scheduled to be broadcast on lyric fm on 19th May

Published on 1 May 2005

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