Sunday 10 January 2016

Linger - Ailis Ni Riain

Ailis Ni Riain - Linger
Ailis Ni Riain Linger; Ailis Ni Riain, Sylvia Hinz, Seth Bennett, Kelly Jayne Jones, Tasmin Archer
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Dec 21 2015
Anne Bronte's piano re-incarnated in contemporary guise

This new album Linger by the Irish composer Ailís Ní Ríain is based on a series of pieces she was commissioned to write for the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth. At the museum, Anne Bronte's piano has been restored and Ailis Ni Riain has written a sequence of pieces for it which were installed in the rooms of the museum. On this disc they are interleaved with sound-scapes based on Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and pieces performed by Ailís Ní Ríain with guests, Sylvia Hinz (recorder), Seth Bennett (double bass), Kelly Jayne Jones (flute), Tasmin Archer (voice) and actor Marie Ekins who narrations taken from Anne Bronte's book The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Ailis Ni Riain at the Bronte Museum piano
Ailis Ni Riain at the Bronte Museum piano
The pieces were recorded in the museum, and some include the sounds from the museum such as the clocks and the birds outside, and no attempt has been made to disguise the sounds of the pianos pedals. The sound of the piano is not of the smoothest, and has an atmospheric feel which has quite an acoustic tang to it with a great deal of resonance. The result has the feel sometimes of a prepared piano.

Ni Riain's music does not attempt to recreate the sort of music Anne Bronte might have played in the 1830's and 1840's but she has written music which is contemplative and which takes great advantage of the sound quality of the piano. Ni Riain has clearly relished that fascinating challenge of writing for a piano whose mechanism is so much part of its sound. There is sense of notes being placed and the sound being relished. Played on a modern piano it probably has a low key effect, with hints of minimal. But combined with the sheer timbral qualities of the piano, the way placing down each note has a very strong effect, makes the music all the more fascinating and a lovely combination timbres.

Interwoven with the six pieces written for the museum are other pieces also using the piano. She is joined by Marie Ekins for a series of short melodramas based on texts taken from Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and remarkably spiky the texts are too. This is echoed, in a way, by the works with instrumental contributions on the disc which too take music a lot further from that of Anne Bronte. Syvia Hinz brings some remarkable contemporary techniques to bear on the bass recorder, in Borne no longer, a dramatic and intense piece. Seth Bennett contributes a pizzicato bass
in Double-dyed scoundrel with both him and Ni Riain hinting at some striking jazz influences in the music. Repining, with Kelly Jayne Jones's flute, is more contemplative and melancholy as its title implies. Safe at last  is a lovely blues-number with the expressive voice of Tasmin Archer.

For the last piece on the disc, Courage to dive for, Ailis Ni Riain is joined by some of the instrumentalists for a long thoughtful piece which weaves themes from the disc into a long, serious, meditative whole.

The pieces flow into each other and comment on each other, so that you can listen to this as a satisfying continuous whole. This is music to be listened to intently, from beginning to end perhaps in a darkened room to bring out the real atmosphere.

There are films about the project and about the restoring of the piano on Vimeo.

Ailís Ní Ríain plays the Brontë piano from Ailís Ní Ríain on Vimeo.

The album is available to download from the CD Baby website.

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