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Donnacha Dennehy


About this Artist

DONNACHA DENNEHY’s music has been featured in festivals and at venues around the world, such as the Edinburgh International Festival; Carnegie Hall and BAM, New York; The Barbican Centre, Wigmore Hall, and The Linbury at the Royal Opera House, London; Tanglewood Festival; Holland Festival; Kennedy Center, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in the UK (which opened its 2012 Festival with a portrait concert devoted to Dennehy’s music); Dublin Theatre Festival; ISCM World Music Days; Bang On A Can; Ultima Festival in Oslo; Musica Viva Lisbon; the Saarbrucken Festival; and the Schleswig-Holstein Festival.

Dennehy (born in 1970 in Dublin) has received commissions from, among others, Alarm Will Sound, Bang On A Can, Contact (Toronto), Dawn Upshaw, Doric String Quartet (London), Fidelio Trio, Joanna MacGregor, Kronos Quartet, Icebreaker, Nadia Sirota, National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Orkest de Volharding (Amsterdam), Percussion Group of the Hague, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, So Percussion, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (Minnesota), Third Coast Percussion, Ulster Orchestra, United Instruments of Lucilin (Luxembourg), and Wide Open Opera (Dublin). Collaborations include pieces with the writers Colm Tóibín (The Dark Places), Paul Muldoon (in progress), and Enda Walsh (including the two operas: The Last Hotel and The Second Violinist). In 2010, his single-movement orchestral piece Crane was “recommended” by the International Rostrum of Composers.

Returning to Ireland after studies abroad, principally at the University of Illinois in the U.S., Dennehy founded Crash Ensemble, Ireland’s now-renowned new music group, in 1997. Alongside the singers Dawn Upshaw and Iarla O’Lionáird, Crash Ensemble features on the 2011 Nonesuch release of Dennehy’s music, entitled Grá agus Bás. NPR named it one of its “50 favorite albums” (in any genre) of 2011. In October 2014, RTE Lyric FM released a portrait CD of Dennehy’s orchestral music. Other releases include a number by NMC Records in London, Bedroom Community in Reykjavík, and Cantaloupe in New York. Previously a tenured lecturer at Trinity College Dublin, Donnacha was appointed a Global Scholar at Princeton University in the Autumn of 2012. He was also appointed composer-in-residence for the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra in Texas (2013/14). He joined the music faculty at Princeton University in 2014.

In recent years, Dennehy has concentrated especially on large-scale musico-dramatic works. His first opera The Last Hotel (2015), with a libretto by Enda Walsh, was met with critical acclaim in the U.K. when it premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival in August 2015. His second opera with Enda Walsh, The Second Violinist (2017), won the 2017 Fedora Prize for Opera (Salzburg/Paris) and was premiered in July 2017 at the Galway International Arts Festival, with subsequent performances at the Barbican in London in September 2018 and at Dutch National Opera in March 2019. Other recent pieces include the docu-opera The Hunger (2012-16), co-produced by Alarm Will Sound and Opera Theatre St. Louis, and presented at BAM; Surface Tension, premiered by Third Coast Percussion in February 2016; and The Weather of It for the Doric Quartet, co-commissioned by Wigmore Hall and Carnegie Hall, premiered at Wigmore Hall in July 2016; Canons and Overtones, co-commissioned by Crash Ensemble and Carnegie Hall, premiered by Crash Ensemble in September 2017; Broken Unison for So Percussion, co-commissioned by the Cork Opera House and Carnegie Hall, premiered March 2018 at Carnegie Hall; as well as two brief string quartets, First Frost and Strange Folk

Recent recordings include his piece for Nadia Sirota and viol consort, Tessellatum, released by Bedroom Community in August 2017, and Cantaloupe Music’s March 2019 release of Dennehy’s first opera with librettist Enda Walsh, The Last Hotel, which features Crash Ensemble and the Irish National Opera. His music is published by G. Schirmer in New York, part of the Music Sales Group.