Irish violinist Darragh Morgan shares the story behind some of his most loved music

LISTEN TO DARRAGH'S PLAYLIST

I first started playing with Ensemble Modern in September 2001. I had just got married and my wife, pianist Mary Dullea probably wasn't so impressed that I brought my violin on our honeymoon to learn Oliver Knussen's 'Coursing' and other music by Julian Anderson! Our first concert with the Mods that September was Henze's 80th birthday which he was in attendance at. I still vividly remember the private performance Ueli Wiget gave to Henze, Olly Knussen and a handful of us musicians from the ensemble of a new piano work Henze had just dedicated to Olly entitled 'Olly on the Shore'. A couple of days later I was in the Ensemble office flicking through their discography and came across this RCA recording of Steve Reich 'Octet' Eight Lines. Reich has long been my favourite living composer and there is something in the brittle clarity of this recording which I think best exemplifies Steve's pulsating and exciting music - brilliantly steered along here by Ensemble Modern's two long time piano members Hermann Kretzschmar and Ueli Wiget. 

The attack on WTC happened during that first trip to Frankfurt. Olly Knussen and I watched in horror via a very slow internet connection as the terrible events of that day unfolded themselves. I continued to work with Ensemble Modern a lot over the next two years. Unfortunately I had missed (through age) their initial collaboration with Frank Zappa. However on occasion we still did perform excerpts from his 'The Yellow Shark' and every time we played his electrifying 'G Spot Tornado' it's been the closest I think a classical violinist can feel to the elation of being like a rock guitarist on stage! 

In 2004, quite by chance I took a years contract as Concert Master of the KZN Philhamonic Orchestra in Durban, South Africa. I immediately fell in love with Africa, its soil, landscape, colours and of course peoples. Around this time I was introduced to a young South African composer Robert Fokkens with whom I have gone on to form a close artistic relationship, eventually resulting in Rob's debut portrait album on which his evocative song 'Africa' set to text by David Diop is performed here in effervescent style by soprano Patricia Rozario and pianist Mary Dullea. The music includes what I like to describe as Rob's leitmotif, a simple two note rising and falling idea that in his ingenious use becomes addictive listening and also, for me, evocative of the idea of southern Africa. 

I'm sure Camille Saint-Saens was referring more to the North African Arabic influenced coast probably along the Mediterranean in his work for piano and orchestra 'Africa' but as a huge Saint-Saens fan I was intrigued to come across this exciting virtuosic opus.

Throughout my travels over the last 20 years the music of Irish traditional supergroup Lúnasa has accompanied me and given me great pleasure, in particular this wonderful live recording 'Meitheamh' and I'm delighted that their uileann piper Cillian Vallely will be joining Fidelio Trio (my piano trio) for a new collaboration this year. 

Composer, flute player, saxophonist extraordinaire Finn Peters and I used to play together in the new music collective Noszferatu. This very cool track by Finn 'Cato' brings back memories of the storming gigs he presented on Saturday nights at The Trafalgar Tavern Greenwich.

If I had to choose a commission that I was most proud of being associated with I think it would have to be 'Bulb' by Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy. I've also recorded Donnacha's violin concerto 'Elastic Harmonic' and commissioned a string quartet, but there is something so innately individual and organic to the medium of piano trio about this work which has already become something of a classic in the piano trio literature and Fidelio Trio have now played this around the globe on over 100 occasions.

For 6 years I toured and recorded as violinist with The Smith Quartet. One of our closest associations was with South African composer Kevin Volans and his string quartet 'White Man Sleeps' from which 'First Dance' comes creates such a strong image of rural Southern Africa where much of the source material for this sensational work by this composer from Pietermaritzburg was found.

Sometimes the internet is in fact a great place to learn of something new, which was exactly the case when I recently came across the music of American composer Julius Eastman, who seems to have lived a slightly tragic existence but who's music is so highly individual and still sounds unique and new even now, that surely it must become better known.

New Album For Violin and Electronics released on 28 April 2017

Image c. Pier Corona