Anima, Op. 27

scoring: viola and orchestra (33(ca)33(cbn)/3221(+ripieno ens 1111/1110)/3perc/
duration: 25 minutes
composed: 1974

dedication: for Frederick Riddle

commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain

published: Novello/Wise Music

status: available for performance


First performed on 9 March 1975 at the Royal Festival Hall, by Frederick Riddle with the RPO conducted by Sir Charles Groves
(Broadcast BBC Radio 3, Thu 5th Feb 1976, 21:05 and Thu 22nd Dec 1983, 21:45)


programme note:

Anima nostra sicut passer crepta est de laqueo vanantium
Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers

This sentence expresses something of the emotional and spiritual character of the music and as such may perhaps be felt to indicate musical intention better than the more abstract and functional title of concerto. However, the piece is not in any way programmatic, and it was not until it was completed that I became fully aware how often its event suggested the imagery of flight, struggle, capture or escape.

The music is in three movements, which play without a break. The first is an exposition of the basic material, the second a development, while the third is a dramatic contrast to its predecessors, being reflective in character and much slower in tempo. A constant feature of the music is the setting up of rhythmic situations which are eroded and changed by the emergence of free, cadenza-like playing from both soloist and orchestra; in this respect at least the work is a concerto for orchestra as well as for viola.

Anima was written for Frederick Riddle, and is intended to celebrate the remarkable qualities of his playing as they have appeared to me over a period of more than 20 years. Virtuosity, certainly, but also a marvellous quality of line. Expressive power, of course, but also a great feeling for what lies within or behind a phrase or a work. In fact a gift of musical perception, for which we are all happy to feel grateful.

Justin Connolly


The first performance last night of his Anima showed that Justin Connolly has gone further forward in his quiet but steady advance as a composer. If his name is less well known than those of several contemporaries (he was born in 1933), the reason is perhaps to be found in the private character of his work. Until now he has shown himself at his best in instrumental chamber pieces: neat, careful music, with a personal, even solitary voice.

In the new work he has been able to keep much of this quality by casting the music as a viola concerto. Its tone suggested by the line from the psalms that Connolly drew on for his title: "Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers". There is, however, nothing quite so cruel and sinister as a snare about Anima, although the first two of its three movements are not without vivid and dramatic gestures.

The first movements form an exposition and a development, the latter marked by a rapid rate of change ~ with the soloist searching hesitantly for new openings, making sporadic flights, and becoming entangled in chordal ideas. The music could be said to fail to get off the ground, but that is exactly one of its points. Connolly's rhythm, with fresh patterns being constantly formed and dissolved, is particularly well handled in the opening movement - music curiously reminiscent of Tippett.

Or perhaps the relationship is not so strange. For Connolly, as for Tippett, artistic creation seems to go hand in hand with spiritual search. a search which, in Anima. issues in the far-off stillness of the third movement. In brief description the work may sound just modishly mystical: in fact its virtues of exactness, clarity and independence give it a fine, lean strength, beautifully communicated in this performance by Frederick Riddle and the RPO under Sir Charles Groves.

Paul Griffiths, The Times, 10 March 1975

Very properly the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra dedicated their concert under Sir Charles Groves at the Festival Hall last night to the memory of Lionel Tertis, who died a month ago. For without this distinguished artist's lifelong battle for his instrument's emancipation they would presumably not have commissioned Justin Connolly to write a viola concerto. The work received a splendid first performance by Frederick Riddle, to whom it is dedicated. Right away one appreciated the composer's statement that the first of the three sections represents an exploration of the basic material. It is as explicit, snippet by snippet, as may be expected these anti-thematic days, and later on was deployed in the service of a recognisable if neo-symphonic argument. It included, once the viola had made its unusually long-delayed first entry, some telling disputes between soloist and orchestra. But all the while one vaguely wondered about the work's title, which is “Anima,” and about the composer's explanatory pointer to the psalmist's "Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the fowlers’ snare.” However it all turned out to been a case of long-term strategy insofar as it helped to put one just into the right frame mind for the quiet and remarkably introvert last section, which clearly established the relevance of the quotation and in retrospect the concerto’s unified poetics.

Peter Stadlen, The Telegraph, 10 March 1975

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