World Premieres at West Cork Chamber Music Festival 2023

Donnacha Dennehy

World Premieres at West Cork Chamber Music Festival 2023

10-day festival from 23 June to 2 July will feature new works by Donnacha Dennehy and Sally Beamish as well as quartets by winners of this year’s Composition Competition.

The West Cork Chamber Music Festival takes place this month and features a programme of over fifty concerts, masterclasses, talks, workshops and fringe events in venues across Bantry, Co. Cork. 

The festival, which is now in its 26th year, will also present five world premieres throughout the ten-day event. On 26 June the US-based Pacifica Quartet will perform Chorale, a new work by Donnacha Dennehy for string quartet. The piece, commissioned by the festival, was inspired by the composer’s new interest in swimming and the way in which it has made him think about breathing and the body.  

Trio Gaspard, from Berlin, will perform a new work by British composer Sally Beamish, Trance for piano trio, on 28 June. The work was commissioned by the trio as part of their project on the work of Haydn’s trios. Beamish drew inspiration from her mother, the violinist Ursula Snow, who performed Haydn’s piano trio in F# minor with her ensemble many times when the composer was young. The work’s melancholic approach reflects the time when she lost her mother to dementia. The title, Trance, indicates a meditative state, but also a departure – the confusing journey of her descent into the illness and how her personality changed and faded. The work is dedicated to her memory. 

The festival will also present three new works from this year’s West Cork Music Composition Competition, an annual competition for Irish composers under the age of 35. The works by the winning composers – Timothy Doyle, Murrough Connolly and Leah Mullen – will be performed by three young quartets: Treske, Calathea and Inis. 

The Inis Quartet will perform Currents by Doyle on 26 June. This work was inspired by the movement in bodies of water and air and the composer interpreted this movement with certain string techniques and shimmering harmonics on open strings. Ildaite by Murrough Connolly will be performed by the Calathea Quartet on 29 June. The piece is inspired by the Northern Lights and the title means ‘multi-colour’ in Irish. The work attempts to evoke the array of colour and hue from the natural phenomenon by employing harmonic and timbral colours. The Treske Quartet will perform Mullen’s new work The Hartford, 1894 on 1 July. Mullen’s piece is based on the story of a ship that sank in the sand pond area of Lake Ontario in October 1894. The use of pitch material, rhythmic qualities, range and extended techniques took inspiration from the month of October, Lake Ontario, and the ship itself. 

All three works will also be workshopped in the Young Composers Forum event with Dennehy – who adjudicated the competition – on 25 June. Dennehy and the Pacifica Quartet will also be in conversation with Evelyn Grant on 26 June at 10am at the Brick Oven venue.

International and Irish artists
Elsewhere, the programme includes performances by international violinists such as Alina Ibragimova, Viviane Hagner and Nurit Stark, acclaimed Irish artist Mairéad Hickey, and the renowned Pacifica Quartet from the US, Armida Quartet from France, Ardeo Quartet from Germany and Ragazze Quartet from the Netherlands. 

The opening concert on Friday 23 June at Bantry House will see the Pacifica perform alongside Ibragimova, Hickey and pianists Cédric Tiberghien and Jérémie Moreau works by Mozart, Schumann and Bacewicz, along with the European premiere of American composer Sean Shepherd’s String Quartet No. 3. 

On 26 June, the Ragazze Quartet will perform a concert of works taken from an ambitious project by the US ensemble Kronos Quartet. The project saw the quartet commission fifty new works over a five year period, the scores of which were then shared online. The Ragazze Quartet will perform five of these works, including pieces by Philip Glass, Garth Knox and Missy Mazzoli.

The Armida Quartet – who have worked on an exploration of all Mozart’s string quartets using both the manuscripts and early editions – will perform their first concert of the festival in an afternoon concert at the Christian Fellowship Church on 27 June. Here they will play two of his works, including the composer’s first quartet.  

The Ardeo Quartet perform Bach’s Goldberg Variations in a new arrangement for string quartet transcribed by François Meïmoun on 24 June; and Viviane Hagner will perform trios by Brahms and Mendelssohn with cellist Claudio Bohórquez and pianist Lilit Grigoryan in the main evening concert on 30 June. 

Coffee concerts, masterclasses, fringe
The festival will also present a series of coffee concerts in the mornings, featuring performances by Tiberghien, French trio Ensemble Diderot, Ensemble Vintage Köln and the Armida Quartet; a young musicians series with emerging groups such as the Cork County ETB School of Music Ensembles, and Lanuaria; and a late night series to close each day of the festival. 

There will also be a series of masterclasses, talks, free fringe events, and a finale concert on 2 July featuring works by Mozart, Beethoven, Rachmaninov and Brahms performed by an assembly of musicians from throughout the festival.

Download the programme below. For further details and booking, visit

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Published on 14 June 2023

comments powered by Disqus