Founded in 2006, the Louth Contemporary Music Society in Dublin is a visionary Irish presenter of contemporary concert music. It’s latest album, Folks’ Music, bookends British composer Laurence Crane’s String Quartet No. 2 with substantial new choral works by Canadian composers Cassandra Miller and Linda Catlin Smith authoritatively performed by the Chamber Choir of Ireland, conducted by Paul Hillier. Then it offers the same works in a binaural mix.
Crane’s String Quartet, eloquently played by the Esposito Quartet, mostly eschews overt dramatic gesture. Quoting classical-era cadences, he deftly deconstructs them in various ways, not neglecting to add the occasional ironic musical twist.
In her The City, Full of People Miller uses the concluding Latin refrain from Thomas Tallis’ 16th century choral setting of Lamentations (“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, turn to the Lord your God”) as her sole text, illustrating it with dense sonic textures inspired by Tallis’ score. With the choir positioned around the audience in six groups. the voices appear to swirl around the listener.
Smith chose numerous epigrammatic poetic fragments by Emily Dickinson, many scribbled on the backs of envelopes, for her masterful choral work Folio. From Dickinson’s deepest feelings – recorded single-mindedly on paper scraps – Smith constructed a fragmented interior monologue with themes ranging from despair to the peaceful acceptance of the final line, “This has been a beautiful day.”
Underneath the contemporary beauty and compositional complexity of Smith’s choral setting of the text, her music has a forthrightness, order and onward motion. It suits Dickinson’s own complex New England character very well.