Gramophone

All three works by the Lancastrian Gordon Crosse ( b 1937) on this enterprising release were penned during the summer and autumn of 2009 (‘the most exciting and productive year I have ever experienced, to quote composer’s own booklet-notes). Crosse justly won acclaim for his large-scale Changes: A Nocturnal Cycle (1966), one-act opera Purgatory (1966) and dazzling concertante for oboe and 12 players, Ariadne (1974). Between 1990 and 2008, he elected to take a break from composition, though he never stopped scribbling down ideas. These, along with material from a concerto for trumpet dating from 1986, were eventually salvaged for the present Viola Concerto, an immensely likeable 22-minute offering of striking substance, canny resourcefulness and communicative flair. Both Brief Encounter (which contains much touching interplay between the oboe d’amore and recorder soloists) and the Fantasia on Ca’ the Yowes (originally featuring flute and clarsach, here replaced by recorder and harp) likewise reveal a discerning and imaginative voice. It’s certainly good to have Crosse back and writing again.

Disc 2 is devoted to music by Johannesburg-born Sir John Manduell ( b 1928), a tireless administrator (he distinguished himself at the BBC before being appointed the founding principal of the RNCM in 1971) and, on the evidence provided here, an accomplished composer in his own right. Commissioned by Kent Nagano for the Berkeley Symphony and premiered in January 2003, the Flutes Concerto proves a notable discovery, the solo writing for flute, alto flute and piccolo conspicuously grateful and idiomatic. Just as impressive is the Double Concerto: a BBC commission for the 1985 Cardiff Festival, it originally incorporated pars for a Chinese flute ( dizi ) and single-stringed viol ( erbu ) and has since been reworked by Manduell for oboe and cor anglais.

Apart from a slight element of strain in the Crosse Fantasia, all the performances under Timothy Reynish’s clear-headed direction are sympathetic, and the sound is first-class throughout. Well worth hunting down.

—Andrew Achenbach