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Justin Connolly Chamber Works (1965-69)

Verse op.7b for 8 Soloists; Triad III op.8 for Oboe Viola and Cello; Cinquepaces op.5 for Brass Quintet; Poems of Wallace Stevens I op.9 for Soprano and 7 Instruments.

John Alldis Choir Vesuvius Ensemble Philip Jones Brass Ensemble
Jane Manning/Nash Ensemble

Lyrita SRCD 305

For those of us of a certain age, who learnt our "modern music" through the BBC Third Programme and Radio 3 as it became, the reborn Lyrita catalogue arouses feelings of nostalgia.

It was the once famous performing groups here, each of which made stirling contributions to British musical life, and Connolly's remembered Cinquepaces (names of works do figure) which made me want to revisit this composer, of whom little had been heard between times. Now 75, he has continued composing, latterly with a labyrinthine piano concerto for Nicholas Hodges (2003) inspired by Theseus and the Minotaur.

This compilation is of Connolly's music from the late '60s. Cinquepaces - "raspingly salty- - commanding writing" writes Rob Barnett in Music Web - does not disappoint on re-acquaintance and today's younger brass quintets at the colleges should certainly take it up alongside featuring their student composer friends, which is sometimes the way these days. Music of forty years ago tends to be left to fend for itself, even when their composers are still living...

Barnett is inspired to poetic flights in characterising the music on this disc which "is not exactly Lyrita core fare" e.g. Verse: " - - flammable writing receives an adroitly torque-mercurial response from the top-flight John Alldis Choir - - multiply-tiered and seethes with detail - spoken, shouted, sung, whispered - - whipped into vivid action and lulled into mesmerising reflection".

I can't match that; enjoy Barnett and support Lyrita's resurrection and Connolly's revival by Nimbus.

Peter Grahame Woolf

photo © Alex McSweeney