Lyell Cresswell: The Voice Insideby Madeleine Pierard
Lyell Cresswell was born in New Zealand, but has spent most of his career in Edinburgh. The professionalism, creativity, sensitivity, and strength of his work is a reminder of how much very fine music is being composed that never makes it onto the radar screen of the general listening public. The BBC commissioned "The Voice Inside," a concerto for the unusual but felicitous combination of violin, soprano, and orchestra. It's a setting of seven poems by Edinburgh writer Ron Butlin, all on the subject of the violin. The use of the text as a commentary that's simultaneously heard with the instrument it's describing is an extremely clever conceit, and Cresswell's handling of it is inventive and incisive, never relying on the kinds of clichés that such a setup might suggest. The text setting is skillful and imaginative, and the words are almost always easily comprehensible. His language is atonal, but it's so evocative, expressive, and lyrical that it should speak to broad audiences. "Cassandra's Songs for soprano and orchestra" are similar in style and in the depth with which the composer explores the texts, but their tone is more delicately elegiac. "Alas! How Swift, for trumpet and orchestra," and "Kaea, for trombone and orchestra," are strongly characterized, single-movement concertos, energetic, witty, and colorfully orchestrated. Soprano Madeleine Pierard has a lovely, supple tone, and she sings with passion and understanding. Violinist Vesa-Matti Leppänen, trombonist David Bremner, and trumpeter Michael Kirgan are vigorous and committed, and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, led by James Judd, provides a lively and polished accompaniment.
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