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He was educated at Westminster School, and then briefly studied law at the Middle Temple before deciding on a career in music. He studied with Peter Racine Fricker at the Royal College of Music, graduating with a BMus degree, and then travelled to Yale University in the USA on a Harkness Fellowship in the late 60s, where he studied with Mel Powell. He then briefly taught at Yale before returning to the UK. He taught for many years at the Royal College of Music, later moving to the Royal Academy of Music, retiring from teaching in 1995. He currently lives in Greenwich in the south-east area of greater London.
His music is characterised by an outwardly modernist idiom, although Connolly professes a strong affinity with the music of the nineteenth century. His style is glittering, sometimes pointillist, and is often concerned with the interplay of complex and detailed textures. His music is rigorously crafted and often explores ideas related to philosophy, literature and history.
Works include a brass quintet Cinquepaces, two Sonatinas for piano solo, concertos for viola, organ and piano (the latter the result of a BBC commission premièred in 2004), four vocal cycles setting the poetry of Wallace Stevens, and a number of instrumental chamber pieces. His music is published by Novello & Co (Music Sales).
Highly regarded as a teacher, his former students include the British composer Alwynne Pritchard.
- Night Thoughts album
- Harvard Music Dictionary.
- Justin Connolly website
- Page at Chester Novello website – contains photograph, biography and list of works
- Night Thoughts is the title of a recent CD of a range of Connolly's music.
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