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Swan Hennessy: Complete String Quartets Nos. 1-4; Serenade; & String Trio

By RTE ConTempo Quartet

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By RTE ConTempo Quartet. By Swan Hennessy. Classical, Chamber Music. Classical. Listening CD. Naxos #RTECD159. Published by Naxos (NX.RTECD159).

Item Number: NX.RTECD159

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 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 Serenade 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 RTE lyric fm.

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