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  • Lyell Cresswell

  • Born: 1944
  • Fully Represented SOUNZ Composer


Lyell Cresswell was born in Wellington, New Zealand, on 13 October 1944. He studied in Wellington, Toronto, Aberdeen and Utrecht. After some teaching at Glasgow University he joined Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff as Music Organiser (1978-80). He returned to Scotland as Forman Fellow in Composition at Edinburgh University until 1982 and spent the next three years as Cramb Fellow in Composition at Glasgow University. In 1978 he won the Ian Whyte Award for the Orchestral work Salm, and in 1979 received the APRA Silver Scroll for his contribution to New Zealand music. His works have been recommended by the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers in 1979, 1981 and 1988. Since 1985 he has been a full-time composer based in Edinburgh.

He was artistic director of the Edinburgh Contemporary Arts Trust’s New Zealand, New Music festivals in Edinburgh (1998 and 2001). In 2001 he received a prestigious Scottish Arts Council ‘Creative Scotland Award’. In 2002 he was awarded an honorary D.Mus degree by Victoria University of Wellington, and the inaugural Elgar Bursary. He was 2006/07 New Zealand School of Music/Creative New Zealand Composer in Residence in Wellington.

Lyell Cresswell’s music is widely performed. He has been a featured composer at many festivals around the world and in New Zealand. These include the Lyell Cresswell is Fifty Festival at the Tramway, Glasgow 1994 and Lyell Cresswell at 60 in Edinburgh in 2004. In 1989 his Speak for us, great sea was performed at the BBC Proms, London, and Dragspil, concerto for accordion, was commissioned for the Proms in 1995. His works include a cello concerto (1984), commissioned by Musica Nova, A Modern Ecstasy (1985), commissioned anonymously, Ylur (1991), commissioned for the St. Magnus Festival, Concerto for Orchestra and String Quartet (1996), commissioned by the City of Aberdeen, Kaea, trombone concerto (1997) and Of Smoke and Bickering Flame (2001/2) commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, The Voice Inside, concerto for violin, soprano and orchestra (2001), commissioned by the BBC, and, recently, Alas! How Swift, commissioned by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Canterbury Rhymes, commissioned by the Christchurch Symphony, and The Perfect Woman, commissioned by Scottish Opera. A CD of recent orchestral music played by the NZSO has been released by NAXOS.

Ian Whyte Award 1978
APRA Silver Scroll Award 1979
SOUNZ Contemporary Award 2000
Scottish Arts Council Creative Scotland Award 2001
Honorary D.Mus. – Victoria University 2002
Creative New Zealand/Jack C Richards Composer Residency at the New Zealand School of Music 2006
SOUNZ Contemporary Award 2011

Source: Lyell Cresswell, November 2007

Selected Works

A Modern Ecstasy for baritone, mezzo soloists and orchestra  
And Every Sparkle Shivering for piano quintet  
Atta for cello  
Cello Concerto for cello and orchestra  
Concerto for Orchestra and String Quartet for orchestra and string quartet  
Dragspil concerto for accordion and orchestra  
Il Suono di Enormi Distanze For mezzo soprano and chamber ensemble  
Kaea trombone concerto  
Prayer for the Cure of a Sprained Back for solo mezzo soprano  
Salm for orchestra  


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