Gordon Crosse, composer who set works by Ted Hughes, Stevie Smith and Robert Graves to music – obituary

His operas Purgatory and The Grace of Todd were seen as a double bill at Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh on June 7, 1969. That night Maltings Concert Hall in Snape, six miles away, was consumed by the fire. Unaware of the ongoing disaster that distracted his followers, Crosse arrived at the after-show party to find he was the only person present and feared the performance might have been a disaster.

Gordon Crosse was born in Bury, then Lancashire, on 1 December 1937, the eldest of two children of Percy Crosse, who worked at Midland Bank, and his wife Marie (née Postlethwaite). He was educated at Cheadle Hulme School and by the age of 13 he was writing music. Last year he wrote A Cheshire Man to mark the 90th birthday of Peter Hope, another school alumnus and fellow composer.

At St Edmund Hall, Oxford, he studied music with Bernard Rose and Egon Wellesz, who produced Gustav Mahler’s scores containing the composer’s own markings in red ink. “There was no attempt to teach me to compose,” he said. Instead, he learned while working at the Oxford Playhouse, where each term a few plays required incidental music. He was also snapped up by Oxford University Press, writing Two Christmas Songs (1963) to Latin texts.

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