Four works from the
dysjunct, panting and dramatic avant-garde
world of the 1960s.
Justin Connolly's music
has not held a place in the active repertoire
so this disc is exceptionally valuable
for reappraisal and rediscovery. Mind
you it's not exactly Lyrita core fare
although the most recent British Council-based
releases have been busy recalibrating
the Lyrita compass.
This music is the stuff
of Round House events. Verses
is intricate and dramatic -
a whirling and sparkling microcosm whipped
into vivid action and lulled into mesmerising
reflection by the eight voices of the
John Alldis Choir. It sets two poems
by William Drummond and Thomas Traherne.
The flammable writing receives an adroitly
torque-mercurial response from this
top-flight choir. The singing is multiply-tiered
and seethes with detail - spoken, shouted,
sung, whispered. It recalls the coloratura
gymnastics of the soprano in Britten's
superb Our Hunting Fathers. Fascinating
to hear Traherne's words, familiar from
Finzi's Dies Natalis, here sung
in such different garb. It's tough music
but not at all difficult to get to grips
with. More unyielding is Triad
III for oboe, viola and cello.
The oboe holds true to lyricism even
if it is sometimes torridly refracted.
The other two stringed instruments are
liberated in a spray of spiky chitter,
fracture, and clatter. Cinquepaces
is for brass quintet and is
in six movements. The music is raspingly
salty. Crazed – and I do not mean insane
- discontinuity is the order of the
day. It's still commanding writing.
The Wallace Stevens Poems –
three of them - are laid out for soprano
and seven instruments. This is vintage
Jane Manning material and represents
another virtuoso triumph for the singer.
At times she seemed to be carrying the
weight of avant-garde activity on her
shoulders. Get ready for shrieks, sprechgesang,
whispers, angularity and as much verve
as is found in Verses.
The poems are printed
as sung. Paul Conway is now a Lyrita
regular who fills in the detail as well
as sketching out what has happened to
Connolly since 1970 when this collection
stopped mid-pace. Amongst an abstemious
catalogue I should mention the Viola
Concerto Anima (1974), the Organ
Concerto Diaphony (1977), Spelt
from Sybil's Leaves for five solo
voices, three horns, two harps, piano,
bass guitar and two percussion players
(1989) and in 2003 a Piano Concerto
for Nicholas Hodges.
Minna Keal dedicated
her symphony to Connolly who studied
composition with Fricker and Gerhard
and conducting with Boult.
Connolly’s music will
be a surprising discovery for many.
If you have a taste for the avant-garde
this must not be missed.
Maw Scenes and Arias
Goehr Little Symphony