Keal: Cello Concerto; Ballade

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WORKS: Cello Concerto; Ballade
PERFORMER: Alexander Baillie (cello), Martina Baillie (piano)BBC Scottish SO/Martyn Brabbins
Minna Keal, now 88, has had an extraordinary musical life. She studied at the Royal Academy of Music in the Twenties but abandoned all thoughts of being a composer when she married, and began composing again only in her late sixties, when she became a pupil first of Justin Connolly and then of Oliver Knussen. Her first major work was a finely wrought Symphony, which was performed at the Proms in 1989 and appeared on CD from Lorelt last year. The Cello Concerto was completed in 1994, and confirms the impression of elegant, eloquent craftsmanship made by the Symphony. It is beautifully proportioned in three concise movements, the last an introspective adagio; the solo cello dominates from start to finish, and the orchestra dovetailed around it makes its points with economy and incisiveness. On this mid-length disc, the concerto is cleverly coupled with the Ballade for cello and piano, one of Keal’s last works from her RAM days; then, her Romanticism was far more unbuttoned, and the surge of the melodic line carries through from first bar to last, moving from minor to major in a totally confident way; half a century later her music is far more wary and ambiguous. Andrew Clements