WORKS: Symphony, Op. 3; String Quartet, Op. 1; Wind Quintet, Op. 2; Cantillation, Op. 4
PERFORMER: Stephen Bryant (violin); Archaeus String Quartet, BBC SO/Nicholas Cleobury, Lontano/Odaline de la Martinez
CATALOGUE NO: LNT 110
Short and suite-like, the music of Minna Keal falls into patterns of form and expression that suggest the well-boned mind of this famous late starter, dismissing inessentials to get on with the job. Instrumental music is her strength; the four pieces on this disc, clearly of common lineage, delight in the virtuosity and agility of strings, brass and wind. All were written in a period of renewed creative activity after 1975, when Keal began composing again after a hiatus of 46 years.
Her lyrical gifts unfold through the medium of a sustained atonal, though never directionless, harmonic language. Strongly rhythmic, the restless fast music in the scherzando parts of her Symphony, String Quartet and Wind Quintet is balanced by utterances like the reflective horn melody heard in the Symphony’s third movement. Deceptively tranquil beginnings are often the cue for a laying on of tension that continues inexorably until the music glows with heat. The invention sounds spontaneous, although, as the composer confesses in her programme notes, for several of these pieces the gestation period was counted in years. That chimes with all we know of art concealing art. By any standards, the works on this disc are a considerable achievement. Nicholas Williams