Justin Connolly

b. 1933



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).