These recordings were made in the presence of the composers so there
is the implication of authenticity to add to the evidence of what we
Crosse was born in Bury, Lancashire and studied with Petrassi and Wellesz.
Recently Crosse’s works have included, following his remission
from an extended silence, three more string quartets, an anthem for
Blackburn Cathedral, a violin sonatina, a trio for oboe, violin and
cello and a number of large orchestral works including those on an NMC
CD: the Cello Concerto, Some Marches on A Ground
Gordon Crosse wrote these three works in a flood of returning creativity
in 2009. This was after some 18 years of largely not composing music.
There were exceptions: for example in 1990 the Sea Psalms
premiered in Glasgow. Crosse pays tribute to recorder player par
, John Turner who has been a dynamo of activity and an
for the instrument.
What we hear from Crosse on this disc differs in style from the one
act opera Purgatory
We should not forget the other Lyrita
and the much more accessible and major Three Choirs
. The latter lays a clearer if broken path for the
present works which are yet more communicative. They sing to the ear
in a way that perhaps Crosse did before but for which some considerable
labour was then necessary by the listener.
was written at the suggestion of John Turner. The
whole piece was evolved in Crosse's head on a drive back to Windermere
with thoughts of Carnforth station - the site of the Trevor Howard/Celia
Johnson film, Brief Encounter
. The music is a melancholy soliloquy
in desolation. The chill of moorland, the scent of heather and the call
of curlew and pewit in the breeze are threaded through stern music for
strings: a touch of Britten and an infusion of Bartók. It all
ends in a distant shimmer that tails off into silence.
The Viola Concerto
was written without the excuse of commission
or soloist. It emerged from a trumpet concerto dating from 1988 which
Crosse considered a write-off. Add to this ‘wreckage’ some
ideas jotted down between 1990 and 2008. The enclosing movements are
pleasingly brisk and thrummingly brusque with the finale referencing
the Fate motif from Beethoven 5. They bookend a meditative Song
- marked lento semplice
. The soloists and orchestra are gutsily
recorded, as applies to all this music. Crosse’s writing is intensely
inventive - witness the self-effacing final bars. There is a lot going
on in this work.
The Ca The Yowes
Fantasia was again written with neither commission
nor soloists in mind. It is dedicated to a very young player of the
clàrsach - the Gaelic or Celtic harp - and was inspired by hearing
her singing songs to her own accompaniment. Again the music carries
the atmosphere of summer moorlands with uncanny buzzing sounds from
the recorder mixed in with its more accustomed melodiously expressive
nature. The harp is prominently placed in the sound picture. The Manchester
Sinfonia manage some fairly testing string writing in great style. The
Fantasia closes in restful calm.
The Manduell disc offers up two beefy works, each in three movements.
The Flutes Concerto
was a commission from Kent Nagano and the
Berkeley Symphony. The soloist at the US and UK premières was
Vincent Lucas, solo principal at the Orchestre de Paris. Lucas is honoured
with the dedication. ‘Flutes’ - why? - because the soloist
uses the standard concert flute, the piccolo and the alto flute. There
are also significant roles for harp and two percussionists. It opens
with a Vivo
that, after a reticent prelude, launches out into
jangling and kinetic activity decorated with lots of percussion punctuation.
The solo line could be Malcolm Arnold or Nielsen but once or twice it
is as if filtered through Messiaen. The melody content is alive with
latent and actual impudence - a spirited jackanapes for sure. After
a chaste, somnolent and icy Quasi adagio
comes an often stiffly
finale. It has a sinister foreword that evokes
drifts of autumn leaves on the move. Whatever energy it had is quickly
dissipated and the soloist falls back into silent languor.
The Manduell Double Concerto
was originally (1985) a BBC commission
for the Cardiff Festival. At that stage it was for orchestra with two
Chinese instruments: the dizi (a kind of flute) and the erhu (a single
stringed viola). As a result of a conversation with Richard Simpson,
principal oboe of the BBCSO, Manduell rewrote the work for oboe and
cor anglais. The two related instruments tangily complement each other.
Like the Flutes Concerto
this work has its chilly and chaste
heart as in the central movement with its side-drum evocative of Nielsen
5. The finale sets the two wind instruments against a very active percussion
array. This is a work in which moods can and do change on a sixpence.
The two instruments march off at the end arm in arm united against a
belligerent orchestra and not tired by their efforts throughout.
Manduell was born in Johannesburg but educated in England. He studied
at the RAM with Alwyn and Berkeley. His career involved, amongst many
other academic positions, various music management posts with the BBC.
His brief catalogue includes a string quartet, Vistas
a large orchestral work written for the Hallé, a string nonet,
Diversions for chamber orchestra as well as various songs.
So there you have it: a substantial collection of concertante works
by two British composers somewhat at the periphery of the public’s
attention. Much to stimulate among this temperate, argumentative and
See also review by John