Music of Brian Fennelly
Liner Notes   Cat. No. NWCR759     Release Date: 1997-01-01
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra; Joel Eric Suben, Conductor; Fred Sherry, cello; Da Capo Chamber Players: (Helen Harbison, cello; Joel Lester, violin; Allen Blustine, clarinet; Patricia Spencer, alto flute; Edward Murray, Conductor); Dorian Woodwind Quintet: (Charles Kuskin, oboe; Karl Kraber, flute; Jane Taylor, bassoon; Jerry Kirkbride, clarinet; Barry Benjamin, horn)

Reflecting on the nature of this compilation of five disparate works composed over an almost twenty-year span, an immediate thought concerns how each of these pieces is in some respect singular or the beginning of a new path. Wind Quintet, for example, couples demands for expressivity and virtuosity in ways that have maintained a strong appeal throughout my work...

The history and development of electronic music had been of particular interest to me at Yale. This led naturally to my music theory Ph.D. dissertation, “A Descriptive Notation for Electronic Music,” an early version of which appeared in Perspectives of New Music, Fall-Winter 1967. In my first year of teaching at New York University, I was eager to explore the possibilities of the equipment there in the School of the Arts; the result was Evanescences, my first completed work to use tape. Composed for the Aeolian Chamber Players in the first three months of 1969, the Aeolians premiered it in May of that year at their Bowdoin College Festival of Contemporary Music in Maine. The severe equipment limitations that later arose at NYU led to my subsequent electronic works being realized at the more elaborate studio at SUNY Albany.

To pick up a thread at Yale again, I had studied cello briefly with Aldo Parisot at the time he was to premiere Donald Martino’s Parisonatina. His playing was so captivating that I yearned to write a solo cello piece myself, yet I hesitated because of my own involvement with Parisonatina; I had written a short article on the piece (Perspectives of New Music, Fall-Winter 1969) and I wished to avoid obvious comparisons and parallels. By 1972 I felt distanced enough to take the plunge; Tesserae II became the second in a series of nine works of that title for different virtuoso solo performers, each of which sought to expand instrumental possibilities. Tesserae II was premiered in April 1973 by cellist David Moore, which marked the beginning of an association which later produced Scintilla Prisca for cello and piano. 

The two orchestral pieces on this CD represent very different preoccupations, although both illustrate my love of the orchestra as a wonderful timbral resource. The earlier piece, Empirical Rag, was written as a lark, originally for brass quintet (the Empire Brass, thus the title). My only foray into ragtime, it created a demand for ten subsequent transformations/arrangements for various instrumental combinations.

A Sprig of Andromeda from 1992 is one of five works for full orchestra that relate to the New England naturalist/- philosopher Henry David Thoreau. While an independent piece, it is also the first-composed part of the three-movement A Thoreau Symphony. (Another movement, On Civil Disobedience, appears on New World CD 80448-2.)


This title, originally issued on the CRI label, is now available for order from New World Records as an on-demand CD (CD-R). It can also be downloaded in MP3/320, FLAC and/or WAV format(s).

Various Artists

Music of Brian Fennelly

MP3/320 $9.99
FLAC $9.99
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CD $15.99

Track Listing

A Sprig of Andromeda
Brian Fennelly
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Tesserae II
Brian Fennelly
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Evanescences for instruments and electronic tape: Part I
Brian Fennelly
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Evanescences for instruments and electronic tape: Part II
Brian Fennelly
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Evanescences for instruments and electronic tape: Part III
Brian Fennelly
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Wind Quintet
Brian Fennelly
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Empirical Rag
Brian Fennelly
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