Various Artists

Gordon Crosse: Elegy for Small Orchestra Op. 1; Concerto for Chamber Orchestra Op. 8; Concertino Op. 15; Violin Concerto No. 2 Op. 26

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The Lyrita label has continued to find success with taped live performances of music by neglected British composers, and this group of concertos by Gordon Crosse performed strongly for the label after its release in early 2017. The four performances on the album were all broadcast on the BBC between 1965 and 1970, with different performers involved each time. The works themselves are in chronological order, beginning with a perhaps serialist Elegy for small orchestra, Op. 1, which the composer wrote as a student. The other works retain strong organization based on texture, and not only in the Concertino, Op. 15. For many, the music will get more interesting as it goes along, with the final Violin Concerto No. 2, Op. 26, not having a dull moment. In two movements, it's said to represent the narrative structure of Vladimir Nabokov's novel Pale Fire. You would never guess this, but the work is unusually varied and episodic in a novelistic way. The violin does not have a really soloistic role but participates in various kinds of dialogues with the orchestral material, which includes a cantus firmus derived from a piece by Renaissance composer Johannes Ockeghem (Crosse studied Renaissance music after finishing his Oxford degree). The concerto has an attractive kind of length and ambition. This is hardcore modernist music of the 1960s, perhaps not for everyone but worth its revival here. The live recordings trade high fidelity for direct enthusiasm.

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