Unfortunately there is little by way of commentary or review of this work on the ‘net or in the musical press. However, the composer has given a good account of this work in the liner notes of the Dutton Epoch Antiphon: A Tribute to John Manduell.
Gordon Crosse notes that ‘this is a version of the two central sections of his String Quartet Op.47 which was composed for the Gabrieli String Quartet in 1979'. However he has revised the formal construction in order to avoid the ‘peculiar’ way the Quartet has been designed. Apparently, the slow movement began before the first movement had finished! The Scherzo worked with a similar kind of overlapping. The original intention for the String Quartet had been ‘to give a feeling of a large single movement work, but with some of the benefits of breaks between movements.’ The composer told me that the idea of the overlapping movements came from Elliot Carter’s First String Quartet. However, Crosse was not totally happy with the effect and considers that it was better done in his later Cello Concerto (1979). However all this complexity was abandoned in the Elegy & Scherzo which was expressly written for a preparatory school orchestra. Which particular school is now a bit of a bit of a mystery, although it was commissioned by Arthur Harrison. The first performance of the work was at the Snape Maltings.
The composer told me that the Elegy and Scherzo was a halfway house towards a full revision of the String Quartet. This was completed in 2010.
The only review of this work I was able to find was by Rob Barnett writing on MusicWeb International: he gives a somewhat ambivalent account of this work: ‘...the music rumbles dissonance and the occasional angularity. There is also the odd flash of writing typical of Britten. The piercing Elegy is succeeded by the gawky pizzicato ‘alla marcia.’
However, I find that this is a work that is eminently approachable in spite of the first impression of dissonant musical language. It is the balance between the degree of dissonance and the occasional ‘near consonances’ that makes this work both attractive and moving. This is actually a profound work and I feel that the composer seems to be saying much in a composition that was primarily a rework of an existing piece for an amateur orchestra. I hope to hear the original String Quartet in its original and revised forms. It will be interesting to compare versions.
The Elegy & Scherzo alla Marcia was published by Oxford University Press and was published in August 1981. A fine recording of this work is available on Dutton Epoch