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alternatively Crotchet

Robert CRAWFORD (b. 1925)
Sonata Breve (1991) [4:58]
Piano Quintet (2005) [13:55]
Sonata No. 2 op. 5 (1951) [18:59]
Six Bagatelles op. 3 (1947) [13:14]
A Saltire Sonata (1991) [13:34]
Nicholas Ashton (piano)
Edinburgh Quartet
rec. 8-9 Oct 2007, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh; 17, 29 Nov 2007, Reid Concert Hall, University of Edinburgh (Sonata 2, Saltire, Bagatelles)
world premiere recordings
DELPHIAN DCD34055 [64:44] 
Experience Classicsonline

Delphian continue their dedication to contemporary Scottish composers with this disc of music by Robert Crawford.

The Piano Quintet is in four movements and is alive with music that is rocking and eager as well as haunted. When it is haunted it is at its most hushed. At such points the scene is one of Bartókian insectiform conflict. This is lent a strange flavour by a theme which sounds uncannily like the urgent updraft note-group from Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet. 

The melodramatic angularity and confident ‘awkwardness’ of the music's contours recalls in the 1951 Second Sonata the Piano Sonata of Howard Ferguson. The Six Bagatelles were written at the suggestion of Crawford's mentor Benjamin Frankel. They were written quickly and range from the classically-orientated first Allegretto scherzando to a calmingly placid almost Ireland-like Tempo di menuetto redolent of the power of Foulds' April-England. The final allegretto scherzando has a kinship with Shostakovich. 

Unsurprisingly A Saltire Sonata shares an angular yet yielding dissonance with the Sonata Breve of the same year. There is about both works a sense of crystalline liquid cascades, droplets and splashes of colour; almost Messiaen. There is none of the piled-on complexity of Sorabji. If anything the lucidity of expression recalls Ravel. There is a stuttering and chattering drama about this music too. 

Crawford was born in the Pentland Hills yet had his musical tinder lit by teachers at Keswick Grammar School during his time as a wartime evacuee. He returned to Scotland to study at Edinburgh University. There he chafed again the traditionalism of the course and left after a year. He then studied privately with Hans Gál. In 1945 he cut loose from Scotland and began a course in London at the Guildhall School of Music where he was fortunate to encounter Benjamin Frankel. Frankel was a symphonist and film music composer as well as a prolific writer of chamber music. In 1949 after a brief dalliance with film music Crawford went back to Edinburgh. There followed two successful string quartets (1951 and 1956) and then a long silence while he worked in the BBC music department from 1957 to 1985. Music began to flow again after his retirement. He wrote his first important orchestral work, Lunula in 1997. 

This provocative release is complemented by good liner notes by Adam Binks.

Rob Barnett


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