• CARUSO | David Fennessy

David Fennessy is an Irish composer acclaimed for his innovative works blending traditional and experimental elements. With a penchant for intricate textures and arresting harmonies, Fennessy’s compositions have been performed worldwide. The four works presented on this album, “Caruso (Gold is the Sweat of the Sun)”, and the viola driven triptych “Hauptstimme”, “Nebenstimme”, and “Nox”, represent the many facets of his inventive music.

The music in “Caruso (Gold is the Sweat of the Sun)” is almost completely made up of very short extracts from gramophone recordings of the Italian tenor opera singer Enrico Caruso (1873-1921) dated between 1903 and 1908, which are looped, stretched and combined to form a kind of “choir”. The electric guitar, played by David himself, is a representation of an obsessive, creative force at the centre of the relentless river of sound of the myriad of voices.

The three works, “Nox”, “Hauptstimme” and “Nebenstimme”, create a fascinating perspective on the idea of the individual, in relation to the collective. “Nox”, written for the violist Garth Knox, is like a portrait of the musician. The open string, first a C then a G is explored in all its rich sonic glory, and as if by arriving at G (for Garth) the piece is autographed both by composer and musician.

Conversely, in “Hauptstimme”, it is as if the viola player, this time Megumi Kasakawa, struggles to convey their individuality against the backdrop of the forces of Ensemble Modern, but this is intentional. According to the composer: “For much of the time, the solo viola is buried in a thick ensemble texture with the primary goal merely to be heard. Once it has achieved this, a more complex question emerges – what to say?”

“Nebenstimme”, the final part of the triptych, is like a photographic negative of “Haupstimme”. What was before a loud, forceful rhythm in the percussion, is transformed here into a delicate, ornamented chorale in the celesta. The viola remains the solo instrument but is in this case shy and uncertain.


  1. Caruso (Gold is the Sweat of the Sun) 23:35
  2. Nox 6:23
  3. Hauptstimme 17:23
  4. Nebenstimme 9:33

Caruso (Gold is the Sweat of the Sun) (excerpt)

Nox (excerpt)

Hauptstimme (excerpt)

Nebenstimme (excerpt)

80U CD sleeve 80U CD sleeve open
Caruso cover design by Isabelle Vigier.

David Fennessy performs Caruso
David Fennessy performs Caruso, photo Alex Woodward.



With an eclectic but distinctive style, David Fennessy, originally a guitarist with a background in rock bands, has gained attention as a composer both in his native Ireland and in Scotland, where he was partly trained. He composed a trilogy of orchestral works inspired by the diaries of film director Werner Herzog during the making of the epic film Fitzcarraldo. Fennessy’s music has been performed nationally and internationally by many groups including the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Münchener Kammerorchester, RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, London Sinfonietta, Talea Ensemble, Hebrides Ensemble, Psappha, and Ensemble Modern. Fennessy has stated that his works do not take up a consistent thread; rather, each one seeks to solve its own set of problems.

Ensemble Modern

Ensemble Modern was founded in 1980. 18 soloists currently determine the activities of this democratically organized ensemble. Every year, Ensemble Modern rehearses and performs approximately 70 new compositions, including many world premieres, some of which it commissions itself. The ensemble strives to achieve the highest possible degree of authenticity by working closely with the composers themselves. Always in search for expressive, artistic sonic positions of our times, it is aptly considered one of the leading current music formations in the world.

Megumi Kasakawa

Megumi has been Ensemble Modern’s violist since 2010. She has also performed with the Ensemble Contrechamps Genève and the Orchestra Chambre de Genève. She has also performed with various chamber music formations, including the Ensemble Artefakt and the Camerata Bellerive, in France, Switzerland, Taiwan, England, Japan and Germany. In 2019, Megumi founded the Trio Estatico with two violists, John Stulz (Ensemble intercontemporain) and Paul Backett (Klangforum Wien). She teaches regularly at master courses in Japan, Korea and Taiwan, and is one of the docents for the Ensemble Modern’s education projects.

Garth Knox

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, Garth Knox 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.


Peter Dowling is an industry software developer. As a creative coder he has worked with many musicians, composers, visual artists and cultural institutions, helping to create technology-focused audio-visual projects. Over the past 25 years he has collaborated with David Fennessy in helping to realise the real-time processing and sampling elements of many of his works.


Michel Maurer studied piano at the conservatories of Metz and Avignon and at the Paris Conservatoire (CNSM), and won first prize in the piano class Aldo Ciccolini and a first prize in chamber music. He then perfected alongside Carlos Roque Alsina, and studied musical composition with Alicia Alsina. Pianist in the ensemble Ars Nova, often invited to prestigious festivals ( “Présence” of Radio France, Sons d’Hiver, Agora, Archipel Geneva ... ) he also appeared as a soloist in recital and chamber music in France and internationally, demonstrating his interest in the classical repertoire (Brahms, Debussy ... ) alongside contemporary works. A privileged interpreter of Luc Ferrari, Michel Maurer is a versatile musician who also participates in multidisciplinary projects, has a passion for jazz improvisation with various personalities (Denis Colin, Francis Cotinaud) and performs music from videos for the painter Olivier Marty. Michel Maurer teaches piano and chamber music in the Conservatoire of Montreuil (France).



Caruso (Gold is the Sweat of the Sun) (2012-2018)
David Fennessy - electric guitars, autoharp, frog guiros
Pete Dowling - samples, live electronics

Nox (2023)
Garth Knox - viola, voice

Hauptstimme for solo viola and amplified ensemble (2013)
Ensemble Modern
David Niemann - conductor
Megumi Kasakawa - solo viola

Nebenstimme version for viola and celesta (2017)
Garth Knox - viola
Michel Maurer - celesta

Made with financial support from RCS Athenaeum Award, Vaughan Williams Foundation, Hinrichsen Foundation.

“Caruso (Gold is the Sweat of the Sun)” recorded at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, 08/2016.
Recorded and mixed by Pete Dowling.

“Haupstimme” recorded at Festeburgkirche, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 18/07/2020.
Recording Producer - Martin Rust
Recording Engineer - Arnd Coppers
Recorded and mixed by Martin Rust
Executive producer Harry Vogt
P) A production of Westdeutscher Rundfunk, 2020; Licensed by WDR mediagroup GmbH)

“Nebenstimme” and “Nox” recorded in the chapel at the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, 31/05/2023.
Recorded by Christophe Hauser.

“Caruso”, “Hauptstimme” and “Nebenstimme” are published by Universal Edition.
All music by David Fennessy.
Mastered by Yannis Kyriakides.
Design by Isabelle Vigier.


CARUSO | David Fennessy

  • Catalogue #: 80U
  • Format: CD
  • Release date: April 2024
  • Availability: In Stock
  • €12.00

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Tags: David Fennessy, Ensemble Moderne, Garth Knox, Megumi Kasagawa, Michel Maurer, Pete Dowling, Enrico Caruso