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Rob KEELEY (b. 1960)
Dances with Bears
Quetzalli for three clarinet, piano, vibraphone and string trio (1996) [9:47]
On the Tiles for violin and piano (2003) [9:04]
Dances with Bears for oboe, violin, viola, cello and piano (1998) [11:02]
Six Inventions for flute and clarinet (2011) [12:08]
Tales from the Golden City for solo violin (2010) [8:23]
Concerto for piano and 12 instruments (2009) [21:26]
Mary Dullea (piano)
Caroline Balding (violin); Dominic Saunders (piano); Rowland Sutherland (flute); Andrew Sparling (clarinet)
Lontano/Odaline de la Martinez
rec. London (various locations), May 2011-May 2012.
LORELT LNT138 [71:58]

Rob Keeley is a British composer whose studies took him to Oliver Knussen (RCM), Bernard Rose (Magdalen College Oxford) and Robert Saxton. Later his teachers included Franco Donatoni and Hans Werner Henze. After years as a freelance pianist and répétiteur he is now on the staff of King's College London and is an active concert musician. NMC have issued a portrait disc of Keeley's chamber music (NMC D179).

This collection of colourfully active music starts with the kaleidoscopic jerky eloquence of Quetzali. On the tiles, for violin and piano, deploys music with pronounced spaces between phrases. This halting and thoughtful effect makes way for writing of a brambly Bartókian kind. Dances with Bears is "An imaginary ursine chorography" which moves in a constellation of unsentimental dissonance; Copland at his most chilled. The final Allegro is said to be in "Russian dress" but I can't hear that influence. This strikes me as clever music but it has yet to touch my heart. The Six Inventions for flute and clarinet are dedicated to Gordon Crosse. These are fantastic and cool, often slow, dances. From time to time they reminded me of Malcolm Arnold's music for the ballet Solitaire.

Tales from the Golden City is in three short movements. The composer tells us that it was written quickly one summer in Llandudno. The finale is a dignified dance. Each of the movements starts in various guises with a recognisable little figure which the composer says is intended to suggest Scheherazade. Finally there's the Concerto for piano and 12 instruments (2 flutes, 2 clarinets, 2 violins, 2 violas, double bass, bassoon, horn and percussion). It's in four movements the textures of which would go well with those of Constant Lambert's Concerto for piano and nine instruments. The icy central Adagio is buttressed by two more brilliant movements.

The notes are by the composer and there are good profiles of the artists and the composer. The essentials and a few distinctive non-essential details are there for good measure.

Perhaps I am out of sorts with this music but while its brilliance and wit is bound to impress I found it emotionally constrained.

Rob Barnett



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