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Lyell Cresswell


Born: 1944 Died: 2022


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. In 2011 he was given the SOUNZ Contemporary Award for his first Piano Concerto and in 2016 was a recipient of an Arts Foundation Laureate Award.

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 BBC Proms, for which Dragspil, concerto for accordion, was commissioned in 1995. His works include a cello concerto (1984), commissioned by Musica Nova, 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), The Voice Inside (concerto for violin, soprano and orchestra) (2001), commissioned by the BBC, Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (No.1) (2010) commissioned by Jack Richards, The Clock Stops (2013) a song-cycle with texts by Fiona Farrell, commissioned by the NZSO, Llanto – Clarinet Concerto (2016) commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 – Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig (2017) commissioned by Michael Houstoun.

Composed (125)

A Modern Ecstasy

for mezzo-soprano, baritone, and orchestra, 45m

A Recipe for Whiskey

for baritone and temple blocks


for piano, 5m

Akarana Karaka

for orchestra, 35m

Alas! How Swift

for trumpet and orchestra


for flute, 13m

And Every Sparkle Shivering

for piano quintet, 21m


for piano, 2m

Ara Kopikopiko

for orchestra, 22m


for cello, 20m


for harpsichord, 6m

Body Music

a suite of 10 graphic scores

Canterbury Rhymes

for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, 35m


for trombone and organ, 14m


for string quartet

Cello Concerto

for cello and orchestra, 30m


for solo violin, 6m 30s


for piano, 6m

Con Fuoco

for twelve-piece chamber ensemble, 9m

Concerto for Orchestra and String Quartet

for orchestra and string quartet, 25m

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra

for piano and orchestra, 30m

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra arr. by The Heavy Metal Ninjas

The Heavy Metal Ninjas' arrangement for the 2011 Silver Scroll Awards

Dancing on a Volcano

for orchestra, 12m

Das Lied von dem Fisch

for soprano and piano

De Musica

for SATB choir and orchestra, 6m

Die Zaubertuba

for four tubas, 5m


for accordion and orchestra, 29m

Ear Music

visual music, to be seen but not heard

Eight Shaker Songs

for soprano and piano, 15m

even on marimba and guitar

for marimba and guitar

Eye Music

(visual music) for solo flute; free duration


for trombone, hard soled shoes and tape

Fogli Rugginosi

for wind quintet, cello and double bass, 10m

Four Sentimental Songs

for soprano, piano and a bag of wooden clothes pegs, 7m

Fragments of Existence Withdrawn from Time

for trumpet, violin and synthesiser, 11m

Good Angel, Bad Angel

chamber opera for three singers and four players, 1h

Hammers, Levers and Strings

for 2 pianos - 8 hands, 10m


for bass clarinet and tape delay system, 9m

I paesaggi dell'anima

for string orchestra

Il Suono di Enormi Distanze

for mezzo-soprano and chamber ensemble, 25m


for piano, 4m 18s


for orchestra, 11m


for trombone and orchestra, 20m


for string quartet


for cello, 4m

Le Sucre du Printemps

for 6 bass clarinets and 3 contrabass clarinets, 13m


for clarinet and chamber orchestra, 17m 30s

Major Ricketts

for brass band, 4m


for piano

Missa Brevis

for SATB choir

Moto Perpetuo

for piano trio

Nose Music

(visual music) for any players; free duration

Nursery Chairs

for voice and piano, 5m

O Let The Fire Burn

for SSAATTBB choir and shouter, 15m


for orchestra, 16m

Octaves of Radiation

for chamber ensemble, 19m

Of Smoke and Bickering Flame

concerto for chamber orchestra, 25m

Of Whirlwind Underground

for mixed chamber quintet, 18m

Old Mick

for voice and piano


for double bass and woodblock, 7m

Organic Music

for 3 groups of players, 10m


for chamber ensemble, 20m

Pater Columba

for SATB choir and wind septet, 10m

Pianto - In memoria di Roger Cresswell

for horn and string orchestra, 7m

Piglets (for...)

for piano

Prayer to Appease the Spirit of the Land

for soprano and recorder, 2m


for violin and cello, 15m


for clarinet and trumpet, 11m 45s


for orchestra, 20m

Seven Shaker Songs

for baritone and piano, 15m


for brass sextet, 20m

Shadows without Sun

for chamber orchestra, mezzo-soprano and narrator

Six Haiku

for voice and piano, 3m

Six Poems by Amy Lowell

for soprano and piano, 6m

Snatches, from Baptized Generations

for tenor and piano, 15m

Soliloquy on a Lambent Tailpiece

for clarinet, violin and double bass, 8m

Speak for Us, Great Sea

for orchestra, 17m

String Quartet

for string quartet, 20m

Taking a Line for a Walk

for tape, 10m

The Belly of the Whale

for SATB choir, 4m

The Clock Stops

for baritone and orchestra

The Fallen Dog

for baritone and orchestra, 25m

The Harp Sang

for voice and pedal harp, 8m 30s

The Heavenly Aeroplane

for soprano, clarinet, violin, viola and violoncello, 4m

The Kauri Tree and the Whale

for orchestra, 12m

The Magical Wooden Head

for orchestra, 18m

The Money Man

opera, 25m

The Perfect Woman

chamber opera for mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone and chamber orchestra, 15m

The Pot of Basil

for SATB choir, 2 violins, 2 violas and 2 cellos, 20m

The Pumpkin Massacre

for strings, 12m

The Rev. Norman McLeod's Dance

for chamber orchestra, 6m

The Silver Pipes Of Ur

for wind quartet, 16m

The Slaughter of the Innocents

for school choir and variable instruments, 22m

The Urim And The Thummim

for organ, 13m

The Voice Inside

for violin, soprano and orchestra, 23m

Three Sousa Marches

for nonet of wind, brass and double bass, 10m

Throat Musik

graphic score

To Aspro Pano Sto Aspro

for choir, 20m

Tre Canti

for soprano and piano, 6m

Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano

for clarinet, violin, and piano

Triple Concerto

for violin, cello, piano and orchestra, 26m


for clarinet and piano, 9m

Variations on a Theme by Charles Ives

for flute and cello, 12m

Violin Concerto

for violin and orchestra, 12m

Voices of Ocean Winds

for SSAATTBB choir and orchestra, 38m

Waiata Tangi

for trumpet, violin and double bass, 10m


a chamber opera, 16m


for violin, 14m

White Relief

for piano, 3m 34s

Words for Music

for mezzo-soprano, 4m


for orchestra, 27m

Arranged (1)

Three Sousa Marches

for nonet of wind, brass and double bass, 10m

Resources (25)