CD review: Ives Ensemble plays Laurence Crane

First published in the Guardian on 25 May, 2017

Laurence Crane: 6 Trios, 2 Solos and 1 Quintet
Ives Ensemble (RTF Classical)

Laurence Crane’s music does so much with so little. The gestures are frank and ambiguous, bemused and sincere, self-deprecating and alert, unadorned and unpretentious. Take 2011’s Piano Quintet, the central work on this lovely new disc from the Ives Ensemble. It starts as a lumpen waltz, as endearing as awkward dancers who don’t give a damn, then subsides into little phrases that tug repeatedly, now hopeful, now fretting. The means are simple but the impact is deep. In his booklet notes, Crane points out that this collection spans three decades.“What has changed in the intervening years?” he asks of his own creative evolution. The answer seems to be about scale and structure – longer movements, more complex ways of organising material – but the uncluttered courage of those early pieces is still there. It is all performed with a clean graciousness that sounds way easier than it is.