Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Cresswell
WORKS: Anake; Whira; Atta; Acquarello; Variations on a Theme by Charles Ives
PERFORMER: Hebrides Ensemble
Contemporary pieces for solo melody instrument are a challenge on every front. They’re hard for the composer, who has to find a language that isn’t just an assemblage of fitful emotive gestures; they’re hard for the performer, who has to sustain the intensity and interest unaided; and they’re certainly hard for the listener. On the composing front, this CD is only a partial success. Lyell Cresswell can definitely conjure phrases of troubled intensity, and build them up to a convincing climax, but he can’t avoid a certain sameness of tone. Much more satisfying are the playful or witty moments, like the rustling ‘Leggiero’ movement in the solo violin piece Whira, or the Ives variations. On the second front, the disc is a triumph. The players, drawn from the Hebrides Ensemble, acquit themselves wonderfully. As for the listener, well this one found his attention wandering. When after 42 minutes some chords finally appeared (in the fine piano piece Acquerello), it was like finding an oasis in the desert. Cresswell is clearly a real composer, but I wonder whether his cause is well served by this uncompromisingly austere CD. Ivan Hewett