Lyell Cresswell and Edward Harper are both long-standing ‘incomers’ on the Scottish musical scene, both experienced exponents of mainstream contemporary styles, and often employing substantial orchestral or choral forces. This disc of smaller-scale pieces is something of a curate’s egg, but variety is one thing it can’t be accused of lacking.
Harper’s Byrd transcriptions for brass form an appropriate, and well-played, backdrop to his own Byrd derived Fantasia III, an efficient piece of work despite being almost too respectful towards its source. Harper’s Ricercari in memoriam Luigi Dallapiccola (an excellent remastering of the 1979 recording) is also essentially sober, reflective tribute, though here the livelier music, with its hints of the more stressful Maxwell Davies, helps to keep the structure active and engaging.
I found Lyell Cresswell’s two short unaccompanied vocal pieces far more enjoyable than his Brass Sextet. The florid Prayer for the Cure of a Sprained Back (the text is from an army surgeon’s 1859 attempt at a history of New Zealand) recalls Berio’s works for Cathy Berberian without slavish imitation, and this, together with the later, shorter Words for Music, is finely performed by Jane Manning in recordings which make admirable use of church resonance (Rosslyn Hill Chapel). … On this evidence, and that of earlier Cresswell discs…, this composer is most effective when writing for voices.