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Justin CONNOLLY (b.1933)
Verse op. 7b for eight soloists (SSAATTBB) (1969) [11:53]
John Alldis Choir
Triad III op. 8 for oboe, viola and cello (1966) [16:56]
Vesuvius Ensemble
Cinquepaces op. 5 for brass quintet (1965) [16:31]
Philip Jones Brass Ensemble
Poems of Wallace Stevens I op. 9 for soprano and seven instruments (1967) [11:36]
Jane Manning (soprano)
Nash Ensemble/Justin Connolly
rec. 1972, St John's Smith Square, London, ADD.
recordings made in association with the British Council, first released on LP Argo ZRG 747.
LYRITA SRCD.305 [56:48]

Experience Classicsonline

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.
Rob Barnett

Also Available

SRCD.307 Maw Sinfonia
SRCD.265 Lutyens Quincunx
SRCD.267 Maw Scenes and Arias
SRCD.306 Birtwistle Nenia
SRCD.254 Goehr Little Symphony





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