An immaculately crafted, beautiful and poignant collection of nine piano pieces, What is living and what is dead is the new album from Irish composer Simon O'Connor, written for and recorded by Ireland's foremost young pianist Michael McHale.
“I wanted to create something that could make a profound emotional connection with people, music that could really draw listeners inward to themselves and awaken a sense of joy in the beauty of the world around them,” says O’Connor of the 57-minute long collection.
The work takes it’s title and inspiration from a lecture given by the late NYU historian and writer Tony Judt, and is an attempt to articulate through music his sentiment that a more equal world is one worth fighting for, one that must be reimagined anew, and that the past may guide a path through our present and perilous times."
“Now, more than ever, I feel the need to create music that can reconnect every listener to a childish sense of wonder; music that takes its joy in innocent melody and delicate harmony; music that is – at it’s core – an embodiment of hopefulness.”
“Simon O’Connor’s album What is living and what is dead for solo piano (performed by Michael McHale) is an hour-long meditative, introspective work that … lounges in being hard to place … calling to mind Arvo Part and Keith Jarrett… extended duration and emotional directness are key to the work’s effect” – Liam Cagney, The Journal of Music
Simon O'Connor is a Dublin-based composer whose musical life began in punk bands as a young teen. Musically self-taught, he worked primarily in theatre composition before forming seminal Dublin psych-rock band The Jimmy Cake. A graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, where he studied with composers Donnacha Dennehy and Kevin Volans, O’Connor has for many years worked primarily in a tonal, minimal palette, writing for chamber ensembles and solo musicians. His most recent song cycle, Left Behind – commissioned by vocalist Michelle O’Rourke – formed the centrepiece of the Irish Republic’s International Women’s Day Centenary Celebrations in 2016.
Belfast-born Michael McHale is one of Ireland’s leading pianists. Since completing his studies at Cambridge University and the Royal Academy of Music, he has developed a busy international career as a solo recitalist, concerto soloist and chamber musician. He has performed at many important musical centres including Suntory Hall, Tokyo; Lincoln Center, New York; Symphony Hall, Boston; Konzerthaus, Berlin; Pesti Vigadó, Budapest, and the Ushuaia, Chopiniana and Tanglewood Festivals. Michael’s debut solo album The Irish Piano was selected as ‘CD of the Week’ by critic Norman Lebrecht, who described it as “a scintillating recital … fascinating from start to stop”, whilst Gramophone praised “the singing sensibility of McHale's sensitive and polished pianism”.