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LABELS: Riverrun
WORKS: Quickening the Dead; Unseen Shadows; In the Clear; One Flesh; Tjarn; O ignis spiritus; Off the Beaten Track
PERFORMER: Alison Hayhurst (flute), Steven Wray, Daniel Smith (piano), Cathy Stevens (viola), Susanna Pell (viol), Jacob Heringman (lute), Melanie Brandon (violin); Hilliard Ensemble, Bacchanalia
CATALOGUE NO: RVRCD 55 (distr. 01767 260223,
The proliferation of small independent labels has meant that more contemporary music than ever before is available on disc; it must be easier now for composers to get their works distributed to a worldwide audience than at any time in the history of recording. This collection illustrates that perfectly; I must confess that Andrew Keeling (b1955) is a new name to me, but this wide-ranging survey, assembled from live performances, provides an opportunity to get a sense of his creative personality. Keeling’s short biography in the booklet notes talks of his composing works in a variety of styles, and that is certainly the impression left by the seven pieces here. Listen to O ignis spiritus, settings of Blake, Wordsworth and the ubiquitous Hildegard of Bingen made for the Hilliard Ensemble in 1993, and it would be easy to mark Keeling down as a conservative English composer, heir to the organ-loft tradition; hear the abrasive Quickening the Dead, for soprano saxophone and two pianos from 1998, and a much more uncompromising stance is suggested. The other works here mediate between those extremes: Off the Beaten Track, inspired by a walk in the English Lake District, alternates droopy viola melodies with percussive piano punctuations; In the Clear for solo flute is a sequence of gentle arabesques. All rather confusing really. Andrew Clements