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Laurence CRANE (b. 1961)
20th Century Music (1999) [2:48]
Three Preludes (1985) [7:09]
Blue Blue Blue (1986) [7:03]
Kierkegaards (Kierkegaard his Prelude; Kierkegaard his walk around Copenhagen) (1986) [11:46]
Birthday Piece for Michael Finnissy (1996) [3:20]
Derridas (Jacques Derrida goes to a nightclub; Jacques Derrida goes to a massage parlour; Jacques Derrida goes to the supermarket; Jacques Derrida goes to the beach) (1985/1986) [16:02]
Gorm Busk (1991) [3:14]
James Duke son of John Duke (1989) [6:45]
Looking for Michael Bracewell (1989) [1:52]
Andrew Renton becomes an art critic (1989) [6:39]
Chorale for Howard Skempton (1997) [1:15]
Three Pieces for James Clapperton (1989) [12:15]
Michael Finnissy (piano)
rec. 29 February 2004 and 31 March 2005, Turner Sims Concert Hall, Southampton University. DDD
METIER MSV28506 [80:00]
Experience Classicsonline

I have had the great pleasure of knowing Laurence Crane and his music for twenty years and it has pleased me listening to each new piece and enjoying the way that his music has blossomed, his style has grown and matured and his language has ripened. Underneath a façade of seeming simplicity lies music of great beauty, emotion and originality, written with sincerity in a language of timeless freshness. Crane is one of the few composers who will never use two notes when one is more than enough.
Starting with a celebration of the chord, 20th Century Music is a short meditation on the kind of subversive music Crane, Skempton, Chris Newman, John White and many others have been writing, surprising and delighting us with for the past thirty years. Beauty is its point.
The Three Preludes is harder music. The tunes are angular, but not unnecessarily so, and there is true tragedy and grief in the third Prelude which you wouldn’t expect from the tone of the first two. This short work shows the full range of Crane’s expression. Blue Blue Blue is typical Crane – slowly progressing chords, coming from nowhere, going nowhere, simply suspended in the air, speaking volumes as we listen to the slow changes in the bass as the music makes its inevitable way forwards. The two Kierkegaard pieces are similar and yet totally different. Written for a theatre production, these pieces, like Blue Blue Blue simply hang in the air, going their own special way, never deviating from the path the composer has stepped on at the start of the piece.
With Birthday Piece for Michael Finnissy we return to the utmost simplicity of 20th Century Music – three chords repeat and repeat. They hover, they repeat, they stop. Gorgeous!
The four Jacques Derrida pieces derive from a theatre piece. Using his repeated chord method, thus making us listen to all the overtones and associated sounds connected to the music, Crane takes us into a very special hypnotic world. Subtle, seeming to be without ambition or goal, strange things happen. The second piece has movement, but it is the last piece which is most striking – Crane builds a fine climax out of his material and there is a real feeling of deep passion, which is disturbed several times by two dissonant chords. Subversive? I’ll say it is!
Gorm Busk is the name of a Scandinavian musicologist Crane discovered whilst working in the office of the New Grove. He never met the man but loved his name hence this small dedication. Crane did a similar thing in 1989. Whilst watching Going for Gold – a lunchtime TV game show – he saw a contestant named Jürgen Hip and was so taken with that name that he immediately wrote a piece for cello and piano duet using the man’s name. It’s a lovely piece and one we should hear more often.
Three pieces dedicated to friends follow. There’s a depth of feeling here, as befits tributes to friends, as can also be found in the Chorale for Howard Skempton. The Three Pieces for James Clapperton come as a shock. Clapperton is a true virtuoso so here are three pieces testing his powers of interpretation in music of tenderness and straightforwardness without an hint of a showpiece.
Crane’s art is too important and too beautiful to miss. This is a most important issue, produced with marvelous, clear, sound, very sympathetic performances, fine notes and a lovely reproduction of Liz Arnold’s Mythic Heaven on the cover of the booklet. Buy it and enjoy!
Bob Briggs

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