Gordon Crosse: Ariadne; Changes

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English composer Gordon Crosse has been granted only two international releases in the digital era: one on NMC featuring three works -- Memories of Morning: Night, Some marches on a ground, and the Cello Concerto, and this one on Lyrita featuring two works: Ariadne, Concertante for solo oboe and 12 players, and Changes, a nocturnal cycle for soprano and baritone soloists, mixed chorus, and orchestra. Of the two recordings, this one is the earlier. Ariadne comes from 1974, two years after the work's premiere, and features Sarah Francis and Michael Lankester, the soloist and conductor of the premiere. Changes comes from 1969, three years after its premiere in 1966, and while it does not feature any of the performers from the premiere, the performers it does feature are arguably better: soprano Jennifer Vyvyan, baritone John Shirley-Quirk, the Orpington Junior Singers, the Highgate School for Boys Choir, the London Symphony Chorus, the London Symphony Orchestra, and conductor Norman del Mar. It may also be the better of the two recordings. Not unexpectedly, Francis, the composer's wife, proves both a deeply talented oboist and a highly dedicated interpreter in Ariadne, while the multitudes assembled for Changes are manifestly giving their all to the music, a claim the BBC Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins may or may not be able to successfully defend. For some, Crosse's bright, brash, and brilliantly modernist music may be very engaging, even moving. For others, it may be merely too edgy, too angular, and too relentlessly assertive. Imagine a faster and more aggressive later Stravinsky and you'll have some idea what to imagine. Lyrita's stereo sound is clear, clean, crisp, and colorful.

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