Though Justin Connolly’s work has received less than generous exposure of late, this anthology of pieces of recent vintage should help redress the balance in advance of his 70th birthday next year. The performers, a corpus of seasoned new-music specialists, respond with dedication to a composer whose thoughts flow from a source where the intensity of art mingles with the mysterious passage of live.
Others, or course, have been there before, not least the German poet Hölderlin, whose verse Connolly sets sparsely yet powerfully in Scardanelli Dreams. An impressive achievement from what clearly promises to be an Indian summer of creative activity, this cantata, notably in the visionary ‘Der Frühling’, embraces stillness and agitation in the meaningful contradiction of voice and accompaniment. For Nocturnal, a virtuoso fantasy for flautist, piano, double bass and percussion, a quotation from Moby Dick provides the inspiration. As with the Hölderlin, we sense in the chosen text (a passage with strongly theological overtones) the presence of something beyond the expression of music, yet remaining part of its tonality.
The Second Sonata for piano, and bass-clarinet study Domination of Black, offer additional proof of the composer in fine form in the seventh decade ****