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“Granger and Crossley should of course be commended for their musical skill and technical prowess, after a concert of largely faultless, well-executed playing, but for constructing an evening of such bold, uncompromising, pioneering music they deserve a standing ovation. Trailblazers, while not always popular, should be fearless, and this was a performance that wasn’t just brave, but also brilliant.”  Maxim Boon, October 12 2015, Limelight Magazine

Duality was the result of an ongoing collaboration between Alicia Crossley and American harpist Emily Ann Granger. The enormously successful concert tour, which visited Bellingen, Canberra and Sydney, featured works for recorder and harp and including 3 world premieres. Thanks to Fine Music 102.5 FM for their support project.

Alicia Crossley / Recorders
Emily Ann Granger / Harp

 

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Feb 27, 2019

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Oct 12, 2015

Review - Sydney Opera House, Utzon Room

by Maxim Boon

4/5 Stars

Virtuosic and versatile, an evening showing off the neglected riches of the recorder and the harp. 

 

Both the recorder and harp suffer from a bit of an image problem. The humble recorder conjures horrifying memories of painfully out of tune childhood music lessons, and the harp can often be dismissed as something of an instrumental bon-bon, relic of the Romantic repertoire, useful for adding the odd lovely glissando to an orchestral palette, but not much else. Yet in the right hands both these instruments are capable of extraordinary musical riches deserving of our attention, and with a well-judged, yet provocative programme, award-winning recorder player Alicia Crossley and American harpist Emily Ann Granger delivered a defiant demonstration, not just of impressive virtuosity, but of eye-opening versatility as well.

There is however one significant hurdle to overcome when putting together an evening of music for such an idiosyncratic combination: an unfortunate dearth of repertoire. Meeting this problem head-on Crossley and Granger have commissioned three excellent new works by Australian composers, whilst bolstering the rest of the programme with arrangements of existing works, with various degrees of success.

Opening their performance in familiar territory, an arrangement of a C.P.E. Bach’s Sonata in G minor; a savvy selection, allowing a gentle introduction to the sound world of the recorder and harp duo, played with effortless panache by Crossley and Granger.  Some of the other arrangements were truly revelatory in their transformation of well-worn favourites. Ann Boyd’s Goldfish Through Summer Rain was instantly evocative of the Asian culture this work borrows so much from, and Fauré’s Sicilienne beguiled with gentle rustic charm as if drifting in on a breeze across a field of wheat. Takemitsu’s Toward the Sea was a gamble too far sadly, with the bass recorder struggling to match the penetrative heft of the original Alto Flute incarnation.

Both featured instrumentalists enjoyed individual moments in the spotlight, firstly Granger performing Debussy’s Danse Sacrée et Danse Profane, followed by Crossley giving the Australian premiere of British composer Peter Hope’s Birthday Concerto. Joined by a small string ensemble, both soloists shone, however in the drab and unforgiving acoustic of the Sydney Opera House’s Utzon Room the accompanying ensemble left a few too many inconsistencies, in both tone and confidence, exposed.

However it was the three world premieres of the evening that were the real triumphs of this performance. First Andrew Batt-Rawden’s Shadows Cast by Fire offered a beautifully realised and poetic, almost existential reflection on the confounding complexity that can be found in purity. With an elegant flowing melody, the spooling lines of this music slowly begin to unlace before the transparent clarity of the counterpoint becomes misted with a fug of chromaticism. Batt-Rawden’s philosophical intentions are clear as the music nimbly traces his train of thought as he ponders this conundrum, but while this piece obviously intends to push the technical powers of both players it does not exchange musical logic or narrative thrust for flashy, virtuosic pyrotechnics. With graceful lyricism and restraint, this excellent addition to the repertoire shows-off and at the same time flatters both performers.

Mark Oliveiro’s Obake Sin (Paper Moon) makes a fascinating exploration of the ancient pasts of both these instruments, which date back millennia. Using a specially devised notation system drawing on arcane cuneiform proto-languages, this piece mingles historically distant musical artefacts with bleeding-edge experimentalism. The result is something brutal yet subtly sophisticated: an almost savage sound-world that occasionally devolves into a livid mass, bristling with the primitive energy of some timeworn ritual from an undiscovered culture. Music that pushes so unapologetically into the unknown such as this piece can suffer from an absence of empathy if the performers lack conviction, but both Granger and Crossley devote themselves totally to this performance, giving this music a magnetic authenticity.

Tristan Coelho’s Treetops/Rooftops aims to subvert the gentle stereotypes of both these instruments, using a range of preparations to distort the familiar sonorities of the harp and recorder into a more exotically percussive spectrum. Coelho’s expert control of colour and timbre yields a surprising scope of different tones, giving the music a patina of alien complexity, while using rhythmic simplicity and repetition to luxuriate in this bizarre, yet highly effective palette.

Granger and Crossley should of course be commended for their musical skill and technical prowess, after a concert of largely faultless, well-executed playing, but for constructing an evening of such bold, uncompromising, pioneering music they deserve a standing ovation. Trailblazers, while not always popular, should be fearless, and this was a performance that wasn’t just brave, but also brilliant.  

Alicia Crossley is one of Australia’s leading recorder players. She performs a wide variety of repertoire from renaissance dance tunes to contemporary electro-acoustic works with a particular interest in bass recorder repertoire.

 

In 2010 Alicia completed her Masters of Music (Performance) at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music under the instruction of recorder virtuoso Hans-Dieter Michatz. Since then Alicia has won several competitions and awards including the Don Cowell Memorial Trust Recorder Competition (2011), the Australia Council’s ArtStart Grant for emerging artists (2013), and the Fine Music 102.5 Kruger Scholarship (2014). In August 2011, Alicia released her debut solo CD Addicted to Bass featuring seven newly commissioned Australian works for bass recorder. This was followed by her second solo CD Alchemy, released in May 2015, which has been nominated for Best Classical Music Album by AIR (Australian Independent Record Labels Association)

 

An experienced recorder player, Alicia regularly performs throughout Australia and has toured in the USA and New Zealand. She has also presented works at a number of festivals and conferences including the Aurora Festival (Sydney 2012, 2014), Vivid Festival (Sydney 2013), Australasian Computer Music Conference (Brisbane, 2012), Electronic Music Midwest (Chicago, 2012), and SEAMUS (Minnesota, 2013). Alicia has had broadcast with ABC Classic FM, Fine Music 102.5, 2GB and Radio New Zealand, and has performed with notable artists and ensembles such as Neal Peres da Costa (Harpsichord), Daniel Yeadon (cello/viola da gamba), Jamie Hey (cello), Alice Evans (violin), Hans-Dieter Michatz (recorder), Ruth Wilkinson (recorder), Kamala Bain (recorder), The Sydney Consort, and The Marais Project.

 

Alicia is a passionate supporter of contemporary Australian recorder repertoire and has collaborated with a number of Australian composers, premiering works by Stephen Yates, Paul Cutlan, Elias Constantopedos, Hayden Woolf, Tristan Coelho, Mark Oliveiro, Andrew Batt-Rawden, Chris Williams, Paul Castles and Alex Pozniak. 

A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Emily Ann Granger has established herself as one of her generations leading harpists.  Emily has performed recitals at the Sydney Opera House, Carnegie Hall,  Kennedy Center, and National Theater in Havana, Cuba.  She has performed extensively with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Opera Australia Orchestra, Tasmanian Symphony, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and as Principal Harpist of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Emily has performed with Sarah Blasko, Flinders Quartet, Nexas Quartet, Janelle Monáe, Renée Fleming and Yo-Yo Ma. As an active chamber musician, Emily is a founding member of the Chicago Harp Quartet. Emily successfully completed the 3,000 kilometer Te Araroa Trail walking across New Zealand from Cape Reinga to Bluff in 138 days, walked the Camino de Santiago across Spain and the John Muir Trail in California. 

Check back soon.

Bach - Sonata for flute BW 1020 trans. Duality

Batt-Rawden - Shadows cast by Fire (written for Duality)

Boyd - Goldfish through Summer Rain

Coelho - treetops/rooftops (written for Duality)

Faure - Sicilienne arr. Coelho

Hope - Birthday Concerto for recorder, harp, strings and percussion 

Ibert - En'tract 

Oliveiro - Obake Sin (written for Duality)

Takemitsu - Toward The Sea