American Record Guide

Dancing in Daylight is, as its subtitle says, a collection of recent piano trios by Irish com­posers. More specifically these four composers belong to Aosdana, an Irish state-sponsored academy of artists. None of them takes an extreme approach to composition, but there are plenty of stylistic differences to make for an interesting program.

John Buckley’s piece begins with long, creeping tones that sift through dissonances, accented by sliding harmonics and flourishes from the piano. The end of the work earns its name, ‘Music Box! with light, ethereal plinking that sounds more like a toy piano as it fades away. Fergus Johnston’s trio opens with low, ominous, murmuring piano that eventually gives way to a more active and playful second movement. Ill holds a descending melodic half step repeated twice quickly. It crops up in different guises, but is always recognizable and helps tie the form together. Rhona Clarke begins her trio with bold piano chords, one slowly following the last, which are joined by long, mournful lines in the strings. The texture reminds me a bit of Messiaen’s carousel-like accompaniments in chamber works, but with far more singable melodies. The cooperation between instruments really makes things work, especially in the slower first movement. II (the final movement) is rhythmically driven and choppy, a nice contrast to the drawn-out themes of I.

Seoirse Bodley is the Saoi —the leader or the head—of Aosdana and contributes the title work to this record. Dancing in Daylight is a bright, optimistic piece that stays closer to tra­ditional British musical roots with some folk-like melodic rambling and simpler, consonant harmonies. Bodley’s is a far more conservative style that offers a listener like me little to dig into. Still, it’s nice to hear some music by con­temporary Irish composers that I wouldn’t have heard otherwise.

—George Adams