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Novello & Co
Photo © Alix MacSweeney
Justin Connolly was born in London in 1933 and educated at Westminster School. He studied law at the Middle Temple, and composition and conducting at the Royal College of Music, with Peter Racine Fricker and Sir Adrian Boult respectively. Whilst at the RCM he was awarded numerous prizes, including the Cobett prize. In 1963 he was awarded a Harkness Fellowship and studied at Yale University where he later taught. He returned to England in 1967, in which year he won the Clements Memorial Prize. During the early '80s he was appointed visiting lecturer in composition at the University of California, Santa Barbara and then at Melbourne University. Justin Connolly has since held the John Clementi Collard Fellowship of the Worshipful Company of Musicians 1983-1986, before his appointment to the staff of the Royal Academy of Music.
The organ concerto Diaphony is one of this composer's most substantial works. Written in 1977 in response to a commission from the BBC it was first performed at Winchester Cathedral by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Norman De Mar, with soloist Gillian Weir, on 31st August 1978. The London premiere was given at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in September of that year. In this work, complex and expressive musical thoughts are expressed with clarity and directness - hallmarks of Justin Connolly's work. Sensitivity in the setting of text is most especially demonstrated in the Poems of Wallace Stevens I (1967) for soprano and small ensemble, Poems of Wallace Stevens II (1970) for soprano, clarinet and piano, and in the motet Spelt from Sybil's Leaves (1989), with words by Gerard Manley Hopkins. The challenging brilliance of a series of pieces entitled Tesserae, for one or two instrument (flute, cello, bass and trumpet) and written between 1970 and 1981, display this composer's distinctive and cogent musical approach. Each work refers obliquely to a well-known English hymn-tune by Hubert Parry, the common background for all of them. The hymn-tune itself is rarely recognisable, being split into small fragments and re-assembled in such a way as to conceal its identity, which none the less governs the composition throughout. The composer notes that "Tesserae are the constituent parts of a mosaic, or the counters used by the ancients in games, having no significance in themselves but acquiring it by the use to which they are put."
A new CD of music by Justin Connolly has recently been released - the first entirely devoted to his music - on the Metier label. This important addition to the contemporary record catalogue includes four works: Sonatina No 2: Ennead (2000); Nocturnal (1991); Tesserae F (1999) and Scardanelli Dreams (1997-8). The performers on this recording are Sue Anderson (mezzo), Corrado Canonici (double bass), Nicolas Hodges (piano), Nancy Ruffer (flutes), Andrew Sparling (bass clarinet) and Julian Warburton (percussion).