SCHLEPPER-CONNOLLY: The weathered stone. A view from above. Beekeepers. Field.
Robinson Panoramic Quartet; Saskia Lankhoorn, piano; Benedict Schlepper-Connolly, vocals & synthesizer; Seán Mac Erlaine, chalumeau & bass clarinet.
Ergodos ER 26 TT: 54:06

Strangely intriguing, despite everything. Dublin-based Benedict Schlepper-Connolly is a name new to me, so I’ve spent much of my time with this CD in trying to understand him as a composer, rather than in understanding his works. To some extent, he takes off from minimalism, although he’s not really minimalist. The weathered stone for violin, cello, and piano, for example, shows a poetic ear for new sounds, particularly the often extreme pointillist separation of a musical line among the instruments. Tonal center doesn’t change in a twenty-minute piece. There’s nothing noticeably melodic. Instead, you follow tiny permutations of ostinato-like figures. Unlike much of American minimalism, there’s little forward impulse. It felt to me as if I had spent 20 minutes watching raindrops hit a stone, and about as interesting when it finally ended. In short, despite its poetry, it wrestled my interest to the ground and put it in a sleeper hold.
At slightly under ten minutes, A view from above -- for a quartet consisting of violin, viola, cello, and double bass -- succeeds far more doing much the same thing as Weathered stone. Indeed, it was my favorite of the program. Beekeepers sets a poem by somebody (no liner notes, so I have no idea). By this time, I had some insight into Schlepper-Connolly, based on the works here. He limits his emotional range to a rapt, ecstatic stillness. Field provides more of the same. Even Delius strives for wider psychological territory.
The performances are quite good, with one caveat. Schlepper-Connolly has a small, pleasant, non-professional voice and mushy diction. Furthermore, the recording balance often drowns him out, so you can forget about making out the words to Beekeepers. Yet the composer is only in his thirties, and he shows enough to make you want to know where he will go later on.

S.G.S. (February 2018)