Lyell Cresswell

Born in 1944, Lyell Cresswell grew up in a Salvation Army family in Wellington, New Zealand. He graduated from Victoria University with a first class honours degree in music before heading overseas for further studies in Toronto, Aberdeen and Utrecht. His career as a freelance composer began to take off when, in 1978, he won the prestigious Ian Whyte Award for his orchestral work Salm. Over the years a long list of other prizes, residencies and awards followed.


His music is highly individual and unlike that of his contemporaries. It draws on a wide range of influences, most notably art and literature, but also Celtic and Māori cultures. His works have been played by leading musicians all over the world, although he had particularly close relationships with artists, musicians and orchestras in New Zealand and Scotland, where he lived for most of his adult life with his New Zealand-born wife, Catherine.


His music also inspired his art, including his drawings for The Magical Wooden Head. His subversive sense of humour and a deep appreciation of the absurd not only gave rise to exuberant graphic scores and other artworks, but provided entertainment for his family, and a wide circle of friends and colleagues.


His Third Piano Concerto is receiving its world premiere by the NZSO in September 2024 in concerts in Wellington, Hastings, Auckland and Dunedin.