Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Black Box
WORKS: Saxophone Quartet; Fantasia No. 1; Fantasia No. 2; In Lines of Dazzling Light
PERFORMER: Aidìn Halpin (recorder), William Dowdall (flute), Kenneth Edge (saxophone), Cormac O hAodáin (horn); Quartz Saxophone Quartet, Reservoir/Mikel Toms
There’s an enticing new-music culture in Ireland, and though much of its product is rarely heard in English concert venues (or Welsh or Scottish, one suspects), these releases from Black Box will play their part in fostering a closer awareness of the subject. While Frank Corcoran and John Buckley represent the middle generation, being born in 1944 and 1951 respectively, Gráinne Mulvey and Deirdre Gribbin are of younger stock, of 1966 and 67 vintage, so the range is evenly balanced both in age and gender.


Through the medium of chamber music each composer focuses on an aspect of poetic understanding that avoids, with Corcoran’s exception, the issue of a distinctly national idiom. Corcoran writes music for the Book of Kells, and for Heaney’s translation of the Middle Irish text Mad Sweeney. His ‘macro counterpoint’ and bright and stormy sounds evoking the truth of the Irish dream landscape sound less well in performance than in his description. By contrast, Buckley’s more mainstream language proves the vehicle for a gripping Saxophone Quartet and for the eight short movements of In Lines of Dazzling Light, inspired by Scott and convincingly conveyed by the artists of Reservoir, director Mikel Toms.


Four items by Gribbin will be welcomed by her growing band of admirers. Water, trees, shadows and the painting of Watteau are her subjects, in pieces that, heard side by side, impress by the expressive range they reveal in her spectral style. Mulvey’s bright and piercing Sextet Uno and Rational Option Insanity also prove memorable works-in-waiting to be heard outside Ireland. Nicholas Williams