MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Buy through MusicWeb from £7.45 postage paid.
You may prefer to pay by Sterling cheque or Euro notes to avoid PayPal. Contact for details

Musicweb Purchase button


Gordon CROSSE (b. 1937)
Purgatory - Opera in One Act (1966) [39:34]
A Boy: Peter Bodenham, (tenor)
An Old Man - Glenville Hargreaves, (baritone)
Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Northern College of Music/Michael Lankester
rec. February, August 1974, RNCM, Manchester. ADD
first issued on LP in association with the British Council on LP ARGO ZRG818 in 1975.
LYRITA SRCD.313 [39:34]

Experience Classicsonline

Hot on the heels of Lyrita’s generous and expert pairing of Crosse’s Ariadne for oboe and orchestra and the major Three Choirs work Changes comes this CD single with a price to match. This is the second CD single from the recent Lyrita revival: the other being Joubert’s First Symphony.

Purgatory is the first and by report the most brilliant of his sequence of operas. These included The Grace of Todd (1967) in one act with words by David Rudkin. The Story of Vasco (1970) is in three acts and is to a libretto by Ted Hughes. To these must be added the children’s nativity opera Holly from the Bongs and the ‘entertainment’ Wheel of the World.

The libretto of Purgatory – a one-acter - is by the composer after the 1938 play by W.B. Yeats (1865-1939). It seems that Crosse has used the play almost wholesale. The story is, in very broad outline, an oppressive tale locked into an eternal cycle of death and doom from which the characters can find no escape. Even the peace of the final segment calls for divine intervention to break the incessantly vicious circle; it lays no claim that the Divinity has responded although it might well be implicit in the music.

The brusque chatter and thud of the opening and the precedence given to the drums speak of frenetic forces beyond the characters’ control. Resonating and statuesque percussion plays a signature role throughout this score – recalling the sound of Noh plays. The woodwind parts too have a special and inventive savour as can be heard at the start of tr. 7 which, as it gets under way, sounds increasingly like the model for Ligeti’s much later opera Le Grand Macabre. Crosse idolised Britten and speaks warmly of The Turn of the Screw (1954) and Curlew River (1964) although to my ears Crosse here irradiates his writing with a measure of yielding humanity. You can hear this, for example, in the silvery wailing benediction of the chorus which sounds more like Howells or Vaughan Williams than anything more mordant. The recording is exemplary with the many crucially soloistic tendrils of the score registering with all the impact of individuality. Stereo separation is satisfyingly well defined. It is sung, spoken and hoarsely whispered with great accomplishment and unerring concentration by Bodenham and Hargreaves. Most impressive above all is the final sequence of almost 8 minutes – one fifth of the score – where we seem to find summation. This is achieved in writing that is masterly in its remorseless and ineluctable sense of inevitability. This is comparable in effect with Mahler’s famous Abschied and the long epilogic farewells in Pettersson’s Seventh Symphony and Bax’s Third and Sixth. That apart this succinct opera stands somewhere between Vaughan Williams’ Riders to the Sea and Berg’s Lulu or Wozzeck. One can imagine it being directed to stunningly bleak effect by Ingmar Bergman.

Purgatory was commissioned by the BBC for television broadcast and for performance at the Cheltenham Festival. Along with the premiere of The Grace of Todd it was revived at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1967.

The sung text is printed in full in the booklet which is good news. The liner-notes - which are in English only - are models of their sort and are by Calum MacDonald. As has long been typical of the label the text is in light olive green against white. Legibility can be a challenge.

This edgy, ruthless, creepy and dissonant little two-hander is presented to best advantage. One cannot imagine needing another recording after this despite its three decades’ vintage.

Rob Barnett




Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.