Various Artists

Rob Keeley: Chamber Music

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Rob Keeley: Chamber Music Review

by James Manheim

Composer Rob Keeley favors chamber music, and his works in the genre, some of them with programmatic titles, have been recorded in the past. This 2019 Naxos release consists of recent pieces that, with the exception of Distil (2016), have abstract titles. That work, as well as the Six Duos for Two Violins, feature structures in which the two instruments approach each other closely; Distil is for piano and vibraphone, an unusual pair of close cousins that are rarely brought together. There is often a humorous tinge to Keeley's neoclassic music. The Naxos graphics refer to Haydn and Chopin as inspirations for the Piano Trio No. 2, but a comparison to Erik Satie, even if Keeley is not so cheeky, also seems apposite. Consider (and sample) the "Sorbetto II" interlude in the Clarinet Quartet, leading into a drolly stolid Theme and Variations. Clarinetist Victoria Samek is present in two other works on the album, and she gets the liveliness in the music. On the piano in the second half of the program is the composer himself. He keeps the tempo moving in the Five Bagatelles, delightful pieces that are short and simple but somehow sound nothing like other neoclassicists' work. Recommended work by a somewhat neglected composer, at least outside Britain.

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