Rob Keeley, a Welshman born in 1960 and “immersed in London musical life since boyhood”, has a sophisticated composing technique that he uses to create engaging music.
This Toccata Classics release of first recordings proves to be an ideal introduction to Keeley’s output, neatly embracing two twenty-three-minute symphonic works and a pair of complementary Concertos, each of fifteen minutes.
Keeley’s concise, four-movement, Second Symphony (1996) might be heard as fusing Stravinsky’s Agon and another Second Symphony, Michael Tippett’s. The first two movements bustle with activity yet neither is shy of lyricism, flecks of flute and harp adding pastoralism to the second of them, neoclassicism bringing transparency throughout, and when Keeley has said all that is needed, he stops. The third movement, the slow if rarely static one, is imbued with dawn-like ambience, woodwinds as expressive birdsong, and come the energetic Finale I had in mind Aaron Copland’s Short Symphony. Keeley’s recent Variations for Orchestra (2019) is rich in potential from the off and the succeeding commentaries are mercurial – underpinned by virtuoso writing – while sure of direction and arrival.
Of the Concertos, that for Flute (2017) is shapely and speaks with a French accent (Auric/Ibert), never standing still if given to poetic phrases, lightly scored; whereas the Triple Concerto (for two oboes, cor anglais and strings, 2014) looks to the Baroque, Telemann specifically, for something methodical and intertwined as well as florid and droll.
Rob Keeley’s music is a wonderful discovery, especially the Symphony and the Variatioins. He is very well served by the dedicated performers, listed below even if clear enough from the cover. The sound quality fully conveys the composer’s deft clarity. Toccata Classics TOCC 0462.
Sarah Desbruslais (flute); James Turnbull & Michael Sluman (oboes) and Patrick Flanaghan (cor anglais); Málaga Philharmonic Orchestra; Liepāja Symphony Orchestra (Variations); conducted by Paul Mann