Skittish is the word for this CD from Keeley. This is partly because of the pairing of instruments such as clarinet and harpsichord (which create a sound different to what one normally hears) but also because of the music itself, which skitters about like a giddy rabbit in a summer’s field.
The sound is somewhere between modern and more traditional. Those of you who like the familiar may find it a little difficult, but fans of more experimental, modern music should find it easy. For some reason we also found it approachable, with a kind of Everyman feel to it; perhaps because there are hints of popular music in here, with nods to jazz and even popular classical music, perhaps because of his down-to-earth sleeve notes.
Opener Anachronistic Dances is for clarinet and harpsichord, reflecting (say the sleeve notes) his desire to explore “unusual but generally small-scale instrumental combinations”, standard instruments in unlikely partnerships.
“This is the most recent fruit, and I have been pleasantly surprised at how effectively these two instruments work together,” he writes.
It is fast in places and slightly suggestive of a 1920s nightclub (probably punter-free if the house band was playing this, admittedly).
The Three Inventions for harpsichord appear to be him trying out “rhythmic games”; it’s more of an experimental diversion than anything.
The third piece Ut-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La is as its name suggests but entertaining.
The next two pieces are short, Interrupted Melody and Breathless Scherzo, written for John Turner to showcase the recorder. These are “monodies” and performed at St Thomas’s Church, Stockport, and are impressive.
Twists And Turns is clarinet, harpsichord and Turner on recorder, and sees the latter having a very good day at the office. It’s a bit ethereally modern with hints of jazz (and a riff we seem to think 70s rock band Ten Years After played live as a scat piece, probably nicked in turn from the classics).
Studies For Wind Quartet are seven little pieces for four woodwind instruments (oboe, bassoon, flute and clarinet) in various combinations. These pieces are light, full of vitality and mischievous, somehow suggesting woodland, probably populated by elves and fairies.
Different to the overall tone of the album is Saraband: The King’s Farewell “a piece for (for him!) moderate difficulty” by Harrison Birtwistle, say the notes, originally a piano piece presented to Keeley. A saraband is a slow dance and it’s darker than the rest of the album; if Studies For Wind Quartet is elves, this is a troll.
To our ears, Diptych for two violins is the lull in the middle, lacking the quirky appeal of some of the other music, a modern take on Beethoven.
Some Reeds In The Wind is less of a lull but 12 minutes of three oboes perhaps proves too much, though it starts off interestingly enough.
Out on Divine Art’s Metier label, MSV 28568.
Twist and turn here: