Gordon Crosse (b. 1937) - L’Enfant Sauvage (world premiere)

Gordon Crosse (b. 1937)
L’Enfant Sauvage (world premiere)
IV. (Moon Dance)

Commissioned by Psappha through the finacial support of The Ida Carroll Trust

In 1977 Crosse wrote what he called not a concerto but a ‘concertante’, perhaps because, it had a solo part for clarinet, it also featured a cimbalom prominently, and the spirit of display spilled over into the other seven parts as well. That was Wildboy, based on a real case, as Crosse noted in the score:

‘In 1801 J.M.G. Itard published a report on his attempts to study, civilise and teach to communicate a boy found running wild in the woods near Aveyron, France. Itard’s account of the Wild Boy of Aveyron led to new ideas in the education of normal, as well as retarded children, and through the work of Mme. Montessori has influenced many thousands of children today. It was the basis of a film by François Truffaut: L’Enfant Sauvage.’

Wildboy was a great success, and in 1981 a new version with full orchestra was choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan for American Ballet Theater, with Mikhail Baryshnikov in the main role. Now Crosse has remade his score again, this time reducing it for a team of six, still with the clarinet as wild boy and the cimbalom as his double or shadow.

Opening in tranquillity, the first and biggest movement gains drama when the cello enters and then speeds up towards the arrival of the wild boy, his call echoing around triads. After a whirling allegro passage, the wild boy is heard again, low in the clarinet, answered by melody in wide octaves, as if from the distance. An exhilarating allegro ensues, interrupted by more calls, until all energy is spent.

In the second movement, a pattern of cimbalom, strings and piano in alternation with flute is disrupted by the clarinet, taking the music from steady order to wildness, with a quotation from Peter Maxwell Davies’s Eight Songs for a Mad King that is particularly apt now that Crosse’s music is scored for a similar ensemble.

The short third movement starts tremulously but is soon noisy; then comes the luminous close.

About the composer: Gordon Crosse
Bracing together European modernism and Renaissance polyphony, Crosse at first trod a path alongside Peter Maxwell Davies, but with a warmth (sometimes fiery) and immediacy all his own. Major achievements of his early maturity include a one-act chamber opera after Yeats’s Purgatory (1966), his superb Second Violin Concerto (1969), the impassioned Memories of Morning: Night for soprano and orchestra (1974), and a full-length opera, The Story of Vasco (1974), one of several collaborations with Ted Hughes. In 1990 he virtually stopped composing, to return with full vigour in 2007.

Psappha’s YouTube Channel

You can also visit Psappha’s YouTube Channel, where you can watch:

  • Films of works by emerging composers
  • Films of Psappha’s Hong Kong Residency (2013)
  • All of the films on Psappha’s website