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The music of Gordon Crosse has tended in the last few years to slip out of the musical radar. His last major work, for Glasgow City of Culture 1990, was the choral Sea Psalms, since when he became increasingly involved with computer programming, which he maintained was similarly creative, employing analogous brain functions to composition (though perhaps not requiring that intangible - inspiration!)

In the 1960s and 70s Crosse was up in the same firmament as the most distinguished composers of his generation - Peter Maxwell Davies, Nicholas Maw, Malcolm Williamson and others. His then publisher, OUP, actively promoted his works internationally, but most scores are now available only on a print on demand basis or from second hand music dealers.

His most memorable works include the opera Purgatory (the first opera to be performed at the newly constituted Royal Northern College of Music), the oboe concertante Ariadne (written for Sarah Francis), the ballet score Young Apollo (based on the exhilarating fanfare for piano and strings by his hero and friend Benjamin Britten), the Three Choirs Oratorio Changes, the children's entertainment Meet my Folks (to words by Ted Hughes), and the vocal and orchestral monodrama Memories of Night; Morning (based on Jean Rhys's novel Wide Sargasso Sea). Many readers will remember these works with affection and admiration.

Crosse was seventy on 1st December 2007, and since then (despite that birthday being little marked on air or with performances) his creative juices have again been flowing. The first fruit of his rekindled inspiration was a short setting (both simple and haunting) of Shakespeare's Dirge from Cymbeline (Fear no more the Heat of the Sun). This appears on and is one of the most distinguished contributions to the recent NMC Songbook disc. Last year (2008) saw Three Kipling Songs for soprano and ensemble, dedicated to his old friend Sir John Manduell on his eightieth birthday. The middle song, Gertrude's Prayer, is a recomposition of a song originally written for the first BP Peter Pears Singing Competition in 1988. The other two songs in the set (L'Envoi and Four-Feet - this last about a pet dog, regularly called to heel by a high whistle) are entirely new. The cycle (to which the composer may yet add more songs) was performed last year in Bowness, London and Manchester in birthday concerts for Sir John.

The pace has quickened this year, with Two Song to Poems by William Alwyn (his erstwhile near neighbour in Suffolk), A Memory (of Evelyn Barbirolli) for the unique combination of oboe and bass recorder, and Rhyming with Everything, a substantial trio for oboe violin and cello, given during this year's Lake District Summer Music, based on a poem by the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy from her collection Rapture. There is also a very recent Fantasia on Ca' the Yowes for flute, harp and string orchestra (intended as a companion piece to the RVW Greensleeves Fantasia). In addition there are two short pieces for viola and piano solo respectively, written as presents for the composer/violist Sally Beamish.

And more works are being written and planned. Long may Gordon Crosse's inspiration continue!

John Turner, September 2009 

see also

Ariadne reviews: Rob Barnett Dominy Clements Gary Higginson
Purgatory review: Rob Barnett
Watermusic review: David Wright Hubert Culot/Rob Barnett
A Year and a Day review: Hubert Culot

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