Programme and performers
All Soundings Art True
New Work from Trio
Garth Knox is at the forefront of the new music scene in many fields. Drawing on his vast experience as viola player of the Arditti Quartet and the Ensemble intercontemporain and his close collaboration with most of the leading composers of today, he has become a unique performer of music of many different styles, ranging from minimalist understatement to the cutting edge of new techniques and new technologies.
More recently thanks to his interest in the viola d’amore and the medieval fiddle, his repertoire has opened up to the music of the past (medieval, baroque) which he persuasively brings into the present, and his irish/scottish roots enable him to dialogue with traditional celtic music without complexes. He has always felt at home as an improviser, and now more and more so as a composer also, deploying his musical ideas as innovative instrumental theatre.
Described as “a powerhouse of contemporary keyboard repertoire” (Tempo), pianist and composer Xenia Pestova Bennett has earned an international reputation as a leading proponent of uncompromising music. Her work spans a wide range of sound worlds, styles and genres from classical to contemporary art music, free improvisation, experimental electronica and avant-pop.
Since receiving the unanimous First Prize at the Xavier Montsalvatge International Piano Competition in Girona, Spain and prizes at the Messiaen International Piano Competition in Paris and the KeriKeri Piano Competition of New Zealand, Xenia has performed in over 20 countries – at international festivals, in concert halls, tropical rainforests, caves, ponds and countless weird and wonderful venues and spaces. She explores classical music boundaries with electronics, toy pianos, synthesizers and the magical and mysterious Magnetic Resonator Piano.
Xenia Pestova Bennett is featured at festivals and venues around the world, including appearances at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, National Concert Hall in Dublin, Sage Gateshead, Glasgow Royal Concert Halls, Philharmonie Luxembourg, Festival Archipel (Geneva), Approximation (Dusseldorf), Ars Musica (Brussels), Christchurch Arts Festival (New Zealand), Lanaudière (Canada), London Contemporary Music Festival, Musica (Strasbourg), Sonorities (Belfast), Spark (USA), Rainy Days (Luxembourg) and Voix Nouvelles Royaumont (France).
Pestova Bennett’s commitment to contemporary music inspired her to commission dozens of new works and collaborate closely with major innovators including Annea Lockwood, Karlheinz Essl and Gayle Young. Her nine studio albums to date include widely acclaimed recordings of core piano duo works by John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen with Pascal Meyer for Naxos Records, “Shadow Piano” (Innova) for piano, toy piano and electronics, a “terrific album of dark, probing music” (Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader), the complete piano works by Gayle Young (Farpoint), hailed as “a triumph” (John Eyles, All About Jazz), and “Gold.Berg.Werk” (Ergodos), a reimagining of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations by Karlheinz Essl described as “a sci-fi journey in the direction of 1741” (Luke Clancy, RTE Lyric FM).
Xenia’s own compositions are available on Diatribe Records and TakuRoku. Her full-length album “Atomic Legacies” features Ligeti Quartet and the Magnetic Resonator Piano. Highlighted in Bandcamp’s “Best of Contemporary Classical” in 2020, the album was reviewed as “boldly conceived and brilliantly realised… a foretaste of things to come” (Julian Cowley, The Wire), “intoxicating, extraordinarily eerie and evocative” (Bernard Clarke, RTE LyricFM), “melancholy… heart-swells and proper feelings” (Jennifer Lucy Allan, The Quietus) and “a nuclear musical reaction that produces great, irradiated beauty” (Tom Service, BBC Radio 3). Xenia’s subsequent “Atonal Electronic Chamber Music for Cats” takes an unexpected turn-around, using vintage synthesizers in an exploration of 1990’s techno-art-pop nostalgia.
Xenia studied piano and composition in New Zealand, the UK, the Netherlands, France and Canada. She holds a Doctorate from McGill University. During a twelve-year career in academia, she was Head of Performance at Bangor University in North Wales, Director of Performance and Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham and visiting Professor of Music at Gresham College, London. Her interest in health and optimal performance led to extensive accredited teacher training in yoga, breathwork and meditation practices. In addition to her performance career, Xenia is in demand as a wellbeing instructor, coach and lecturer for organisations and educational institutions around the world. In 2022 and 2023, she presented 66 workshops in secondary schools across Ireland reaching 580 participants in an ambitious “Befriending Anxiety” programme with The Music Network. She is a published author with a book on performance anxiety management and co-editor of the Living Music book series with Christopher Dingle.
Irish composer Ed Bennett was born in Bangor, Co.Down. His music, which has been described in the press as ‘anarchic’ (Irish Times), ‘manic’ (Classical Music) and ‘thrilling’ (Gramophone) is often characterised by its strong rhythmic energy, extreme contrasts and the combination of acoustic, electronic and multimedia elements; it was recently described in The Guardian as ‘unclassifiable, raw-nerve music of huge energy and imagination’ and by Sinfini Music as ‘one of the most scintillating voices to emerge of late from the British Isles.’ His body of work includes large-scale orchestral works, ensemble pieces, solo works, electronic music, opera, installations and works for dance and film. In 2019 he was awarded the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Major Individual Artist Award, the highest honour awarded to an artist from the region.
He performs with and directs his own ensemble, Decibel, which is dedicated to the performance of new and experimental cross-discipline work and with whom he has released three critically acclaimed CDs of his music. Dzama Stories (Quartz Music) was described as ‘a glorious addition to the contemporary canon…I haven’t heard a disc of Irish Composition as vital and as urgent as this in a long while’ (Musical Criticism, 5/5 stars) and My Broken Machines (NMC) was Chicago Time Out’s No.1 Contemporary CD of 2011. His most recent release ‘Togetherness’ (2018) was described in a 5 star review in Classical Music Magazine as ‘high-octane music that demands the listeners attention.’
He has been commissioned and performed the world over by many diverse artists, ensembles and organisations including the BBC, RTE, PRSF, Music Network, Moving On Music, 2012 Olympics, Integra and the arts councils of England, Ireland and N.Ireland. Noted collaborators and performers of his work include the BBC Symphony and Philharmonic Orchestras, the National Orchestra of Belgium, RTE National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Ulster Orchestra, the London Sinfonietta, Crash Ensemble, Icebreaker, Riga Sinfonietta, Orkest de ereprijs, Fidelio Trio, Berlin Percussion Ensemble, Ensemble SurPlus, Lontano, Concorde, the Smith Quartet, Noszferatu, Ensemble Ars Nova, Garth Knox, Pedro Carneiro, Reinbert de Leeuw, James MacMillan, Darragh Morgan, Mary Dullea, Rolf Hind and Paul Dunmall. Ed has also enjoyed collaborations with several visual artists and choreographers including those with Juneau Projects and the award-winning Belgian choreographer Ann Van den Broek.
His work has been featured in festivals such as Gaudeamus (Amsterdam), Musica Viva (Portugal), Huddersfield, Spitalfields, Bath, City of London, Homecoming (Moscow), Crash, Sonorities, Sonic Circuits (USA), Bourges, the BMIC Cutting Edge Series, Soundings (London/Vienna), News from the UK (South Bank), Integra and at New Music/New Ireland in Carnegie Hall, New York. In 2008 Ed Bennett was the first composer in residence at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris, France.
Recent projects include ‘Psychedelia’ a substantial work for Thomas Ades and the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, ‘Out of Nowhere’ a large-scale work for piano and electronics for Xenia Pestova (PRSF Beyond Borders commission), ‘Suspect Device’ for amplified ensemble for Icebreaker (Britten-Pears commission), an opera in collaboration with the writer Stacey Gregg (commissioned by Northern Ireland Opera for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad), ‘Internal Organs’ for mechanical organ and ensemble for the Dutch ensemble Orkest de Ereprijs (commissioned by the Orgelpark, Amsterdam), ‘Heavy Western’ for violin and ensemble for Barbara Lueneburg and Decibel and ‘Freefalling’ for the RTE National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland (commissioned by RTE). Future commissions include those for Garth Knox, the Crash Ensemble, Syzygy Saxophone Quartet, Decibel and Northern Ireland Opera.
He is represented by the Irish Contemporary Music Centre and Composers Edition Publishing where further scores and recordings of his music can be obtained. In 2012 Ed Bennett was awarded the prestigious Philip Leverhulme Prize for the Performing Arts and in 2014 he was awarded a fellowship by the New York based Civitella Ranieri Foundation.
If you’re wondering how to pronounce my name, try “Kwee-veen Oh Rye Alla” on for size. It’s not quite right, but as a first attempt it’s not too shabby.
I make music on a 10-string fiddle called the hardanger d’amore , and I travel the world as a solo musician, in duos with Dan Trueman, Mick O’Brien and Brendan Begley, and as a member of The Gloaming and This is How we Fly.
I also use live processing on stage, sending the sound of my fiddle through code I write in a programming language called ChucK.
I’ve had the extraordinary pleasure of performing on some of the most beautiful stages in the world, including the Sydney Opera House, the Royal Albert Hall and Carnegie Hall, although some of my favourite performances have been much more intimate and ephemeral events, special one-off things invented by friends. I live in Dublin, and love it for the place and the people.
There are seventeen recordings to my name so far, ranging from quite traditional to fairly out there. I enjoy both equally, playing the old music that I love, and exploring the region where traditional music begins to disintegrate.
I play a stunning 10-string instrument made by Norwegian luthier Salve Håkedal. The top five bowed gut strings plus the five sympathetic strings below give the fiddle a wonderful resonant sound. It is somewhere between a hardanger fiddle and a viola d’amore , so I’ve taken to calling it the Hardanger d’Amore.
I use baroque and transitional bows made by a wonderful French bowmaker named Michel Jamonneau. His bows are things of great beauty, and for me they are like paintbrushes for sound. They are the perfect match for the Hardanger d’Amore, and together they teach me something every time I pick them up, expanding what is thinkable and possible.
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