Monday, 27 July 2015

Gordon Crosse’s Elegy (1959-60): 50th Anniversary of the Prom Premiere.Part II

The Recording
The Elegy (1960) was released (1980) on the Oxford University Press record label (OUP203) by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Roderick Brydon. Other works on this LP include Crosse’s Symphony No. 1, op.13a and Dreamsongs, op.43.  The score was published by Oxford University Press in 1968.
Paul Griffiths, reviewing the LP for The Times suggests that the Elegy has an ‘English serialism of appealing period charm…’ which seems to me a little bit of an understatement of the work’s ongoing appeal. It would be akin to suggesting that Elgar’s Sospiro had ‘period charm’ as opposed to something of more universal value.
The ‘brooding atmosphere and occasional flourishes of the…Elegy…which have remained important in his music’ is noted by A.W. in The Gramophone (March 1981)
The most extensive, if somewhat overblown, review of the Elegy was by Bayan Northcott in the June 1981 edition of Tempo. He begins by suggesting that the work’s ‘crepuscular counterpoint’ …remains a little impersonal compared with the serene luminosity that imbues the slow movements of the Concerto da camera of only three years later.’  He continues by suggesting that the work can be ‘turned this way and that for its contrasting perspectives and reflections.’ Faceting like a diamond, indeed. After some discussion of the serial methods and rhythmic devices used by Crosse he concludes by writing: ‘Another complication is foreshadowed by the felicitously-placed woodwind cadenza of birdsong-like figuration just before the end of the Elegy: Crosse's Brittenesque affection for shiny vernacular ‘sonores trouvees’ - often enough objective correlatives of the source-intervals of the work in progress, but sometimes style-disorientating too.’ Quite what Northcott actually means here, I am not sure, I think he is suggesting that Crosse is not tied into serialism to such an extent that he is unable to write music he know his listeners will enjoy and easily assimilate. For me, the ‘nocturnal’ cadenza of this work is its most magical part.

Listening to this piece fifty years after the Prom performance discloses a piece of music that, in spite of its serial nature, is approachable, moving and has the nature of a ‘genuine elegy.’ 

With many thanks to Gordon Crosse for his support in writing this essay. 

No comments: