ROB KEELEY (b.1960): Symphony No. 2, Flute Concerto (Sarah Desbrulais [flute]), Triple Concerto for 2 Oboes, Cor Anglais and Strings (James Turnbull, Michael Sluman [oboes], Patrick Flanaghan [cor anglais]), Variations.
Catalogue Number: 06V061
Label: Toccata Classics
Reference: TOCC 0462
Description: Much of Keeley's output is for chamber ensembles (e.g. 08V059), but although he regards smaller forces as ideal for his particular æsthetic aims, he has written significantly for orchestra, with these four works demonstrating the breadth and craftsmanship of his approach to orchestral writing. The Second Symphony is in four movements, and its most apparent influence is Tippett, in its harmony, counterpoint, and rhythmic verve. Notable throughout all the works here is an emphasis on clarity and economy, which the composer describes as akin to neoclassicism. The opening Allegro has an assertive first subject, derived from the idée fixe of Berlioz' Symphonie fantastique, and a chorale -like second theme. A sprightly scherzo follows, and then a slow movement, recomposed for this recording, of serious mien but with considerable variety of mood, ending with what the composer describes as a 'weird little dance'; and a finale in which the influence of the 'symphonies' of Stravinsky's neoclassical period can be felt strongly. Neoclassicism of a Poulenc-esque, elegant Gallic kind predominates in the Flute Concerto in three movements with a sonata-form first, the second a relaxed slow movement, and then after a cadenza a sprightly, lighthearted finale. The Triple Concerto, with its unusual combination of soloists (two oboes and cor anglais) inspired by Telemann, is quite different and, within Keeley's tonal idiom, more ‘experimental'. Restless motivic ostinato gestures propel the first movement, while the second is an odd, lively scherzo made up of little repeated motifs, giving the impression of a kind of mosaic. A tonally blurry episode in slithery scales interrupts the more wholesome scherzo. The finale attempts to settle into a stately sarabande, constantly unsettled by unexpected rhythmic accents. An undulating theme in wide arching intervals is the subject of thirteen Variations for Orchestra, in a wide range of textures and moods, with neoclassical Stravinsky, and Tippett frequently called to mind, and occasional hints of Elgar, whose Enigma Variations were an inspiration, more in character than sound. The finale is a passacaglia with a spring in its step, accumulating texture over an initially fugal presentation of the theme. Málaga Philharmonic Orchestra, Liepāja Symphony Orchestra (Variations); Paul Mann.