David Fennessy: Panopticon

David Fennessy: Panopticon

NMC Recordings
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Release Date: 15 March 2019

David Fennessy grew up in Maynooth, Co Kildare, playing electric guitar in rock bands. He became interested in composition whilst studying for his undergraduate degree at the Dublin College of Music, and in 1998 he moved to Glasgow to study for his Masters Degree at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with James MacMillan. He is now a composition lecturer there himself.

He has been described as a 'composer of deep sensitivity, style and a knack for doing imaginative things with old samples' and this album displays a broad range of Fennessy's music, from purely acoustic chamber works to pieces for large ensembles involving electronics. The title track Panopticon is scored for cimbalon and string ensemble; the name refers to an 18th-century prison design in which cells were arranged around a circular central chamber from where a governor could keep an eye on prisoners at all times. Fennessy's Piano Trio features conversations from the late 1960s between John Cage and Morton Feldman, the music punctuating the extravagant gaps in the conversation. 13 Factories is performed here by Ensemble Modern under Johannes Kalitzke and includes electronics plus 4 hand-held speakers playing the sounds of old looms traditionally used in the Outer Hebrides to produce Harris Tweed. Hirta Rounds conjures up the eerie atmosphere of an abandoned island. Hirta is situated on remote St Kilda archipelago on the West Coast of Scotland whose last inhabitants were evacuated in the 1930s.

Münchener Kammerorchester
Daniel Giglberger
Ensemble Modern
Johannes Kalitzke
Hebrides Ensemble



'What we like we call real while what we don’t like we call intrusion. David Fennessy shows us the impossibility of separation, the beauty of both.' The Herald

'There's so much to admire, be intrigued, excited, engaged and pleased by … repeated listening is required' Classical Ear

'ironic and clever … a polysemous delight to hear' The Wire

'a magical portrait in string-orchestral sound … refreshingly unpretentious scores' Gramophone

'hypnotic' BBC Music Magazine ★★★★

Official Charts


With special thanks to Creative Scotland, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, The Fidelio Charitable Trust, and the RVW Trust for their support of this recording.

Creative Scotland     Royal Conservatoire


Thank you to the Trusts, Foundations and individuals who have invested in NMC’s Debut Discs series:

The John S Cohen Foundation
Nicholas and Judith Goodison’s Charitable Settlement
The Mercers’ Charitable Foundation

Stanley Picker Trust
The Steel Charitable Trust
Terry Holmes
Robert McFarland
James and Anne Rushton
Martin Staniforth
Judith Weir

The individuals who donated through NMC’s Debut Discs Appeal


Conversation between John Cage and Morton Feldman: Recording used with the kind permission of Barbara Monk Feldman and the John Cage Trust.

13 Factories for ensemble and electronics was commissioned by Ensemble Modern and Siemens Arts Programm for the project „into…“


Panopticon and Piano Trio (Music for the pauses in a conversation between John Cage and Morton Feldman) were recorded at Stoller Hall, Manchester on 2-5 June 2018. Hirta Rounds was recorded at Kupferhaus Planegg, Munich on 20-21 July 2017.

DAVID LEFEBER Recording Engineer & Producer

Catalogue number: NMC D244
Release Date: 15 March 2019