Daring tintinnabulations on display for all to savour

Daring tintinnabulations on display for all to savour Baroque violinist Claire Duff
Pat O’Kelly


Besides organising its touring programme, Music Network, which stemmed from the now defunct Music Association of Ireland’s ‘Country Tours’, also administers the government-sponsored Music Capital Scheme.

The recently announced 2019 fund of  €270,250 will be dispensed towards “the purchase of musical instruments to both non-professional performing groups and to individual performing musicians”.

Since its establishment in 2008, the Music Capital Scheme has assisted almost 350 individual musicians, groups and organisations and has benefited some 35,000 people throughout Ireland. Applications for funding for 2019 should be made to Music Network before the 2pm Thursday, March 21 deadline.

Further information about the Scheme is available by contacting programmes’ administrator Sarah Cunningham on 01 4750224 or at capitalscheme@musicnetwork.ie.

Earlier this month Music Network’s latest tour showcased the commanding musicianship of Claire Duff, one of the country’s foremost baroque violinists. Recitals in Birr, Clifden, Dun Laoghaire, and Listowel followed the initial Dublin event in St Finian’s Lutheran Church on Adelaide Road.

Accompanied by Dieppe-born harpsichordist Benjamin Alard, Claire Duff’s programme was devoted mainly to Bach, although she began with a sonata by Corelli – the Italian composer much admired by JSB. Exceptionally stylish, Ms Duff’s colourful playing also caressed darker viola hues in moments of tender deliberation.

On his own, Benjamin Alard offered a Bach Adagio and Fugue, the latter on a theme of Corelli, and the ever-popular Italian Concerto. If I considered his playing a little precious, he still elicited an unusual range of tone from the Gannon instrument used on this tour. One could be excused for mistaking it, at times, for an 18th Century fortepiano.

But in between these Baroque gems emerged something of a present-day jewel in its own right – the Music Network commissioned Fantasia (homage to JS Bach) by Jane O’Leary. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Dr O’Leary has been living in Galway since 1972.


A founder member of Aosdána, she is a graduate of New York’s Vassar College; holds a composition PhD from New Jersey’s Princeton University and has been conferred with an honorary doctorate of music from NUI. Jane O’Leary is also artistic director of Concorde – an ensemble with a penchant towards contemporary music that she helped found in 1976. The extensive range of Dr O’Leary’s own compositions has brought considerable performances abroad.

Her Fantasia fitted agreeably into Music Network’s tour programme. As the composer pointed out in her introduction, the term Fantasia implies “freedom, unpredictability [and] an element of surprise” – components ingeniously expressed in her commissioned piece.

She mentioned as well that while writing the work she “tried to follow the style of Bach’s period and the particular qualities of sound inherent in these [violin and harpsichord] instruments from another era”.

But this Fantasia is also an imaginative excursion into virtuosic violin writing, reminding me, here and there, of Paganini’s flamboyant Caprices. Certainly Claire Duff responded to the music with a contrasting combination of uninhibited élan and discreet sensitivity.

The harpsichord’s contribution seemed more restrained but it also made significant ‘sharp incisions’ particularly in two cadenza-like incursions where glittering tintinnabulations displayed their own daring involvement.