John Veale (1922-2006) and Robert Crawford (b.1925) cannot be said to be well-known names in the musical household. Veale was one of those midcentury composers whose commitment to tonality found little favor among the makers and shakers of the British postwar musical experience. Though played by major performers in the 1950s, he composed almost nothing from the late 1960s until 1980, when he wrote the Violin Concerto, Lydia Mordkovich’s recording of which Paul A. Snook enthusiastically reviewed in 2001, even putting it on his Want List for that year.
The String Quartet (1950) is a fine, if somewhat melancholy, piece. It will not call to mind the clear profiles of the Bartok or Britten quartets of this period, but it is well structured and confidently written, and the Adderbury Ensemble (Simon Lewis and Chris Windass, violins; Lisanne Melchoir, viola; and Jane Fenton, cello) play it with conviction.
The recorder player, John Turner, unites these two contemporaries, because the recorder pieces were all written for or first performed by him. Veale’s Impromptu (2000) is a short memorial piece and exhibits no virtuosic flourishes but works out its material efficiently. The Triptych (2001/031 was originally written for recorder and guitar but later rescored for string quartet.
Robert Crawford, the Scottish one, not the American, appears in these pages for the first time, as near as I can tell. Though educated as a performing musician on the violin, he worked most of his life as the BBC music producer in Glasgow. Nonetheless, he has written a fair amount of chamber music, three string quartets with a fourth on the way, and other chamber music, including a number of pieces for John Turner. The Elegaic Quintet (2008) began with the 12-tone second movement, written for a memorial service for his father-in-law, the composer Robin Orr. The slightly Hindemithean Inventions (2001/08) are based upon the composer’s name and were originally for recorder and viola, but were revised for this recording. Surprisingly, the balance between the two instruments works. The Clarinet Quintet (1992) is, in some ways, the most interesting piece on this disc, asking a great deal of the clarinet, well played by Linda Merrick.
There is an elegiac cast to all the music on this recording; it will not set bridges burning, and it probably should not be listened to straight through. The music is well crafted, well performed, and it is worth getting to know the Veale quartet and the Crawford Clarinet Quintet.