Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lyell Cresswell, New Zealand's Worthy Composer

If you aren't familiar with the music of Lyell Cresswell you aren't alone. Before I heard the new Naxos CD under consideration today, I had no exposure to him. He was born in 1944. He is a living presence. The Voice Inside showcases four of his compositions for orchestra. There is the title piece, The Voice Inside, and Cassandra's Songs, both of which feature the very appealing mezzo-soprano of Madeleine Picard. Then there is Alas! How Swift and Kaea, with solo spots for trumpet and trombone, respectively. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra under James Judd provide seemingly definitive performances of the music.

And what of it? Cresswell has a beautiful feel for the orchestral possibilities available to him and makes fine use of the various combinations at hand. His music is firmly in the modern mainstream. It is neither highly romantic nor is it especially abstract or dissonant.

The two works for mezzo-soprano and orchestra show that he has a definite flair for evoking sound-pictures that complement and extend the meaning of the lyrics. All the works give you plenty of evidence of a lucid musical mind at work. This Cresswell program should provide the serious listener with much to appreciate.

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