The English pianist, Paul (Christopher Richard) Crossley, began his studies on the organ at Mansfield College in Oxford. He first undertook serious instruction on piano in Leeds with Fanny Waterman, later founder of the Leeds International Piano Competition. While a student at Mansfield College, he was discovered by Olivier Messiaen and his wife Yvonne Loriod, who heard him play and immediately invited him to come to Paris to study with them in 1967. This was a seminal experience, culminating in his winning in 1968 the 2nd prize (joint prize winner with Japanese pianist Izumi Tateno) at the Messiaen Competition in Royan, France. His acclaimed mastery of the elusive styles and sounds of the French repertoire flowered at this time.
Paul Crossley has specialized in contemporary music, being particularly admired for his performances of Michael Tippett and Messiaen. His virtuoso technique and thoughtful musicianship have also been heard in the Classical repertory and many new works. In 1973, Crossley gave at the Bath Festival the world premiere of Tippett’s Piano Sonata No. 3, which was written especially for him, and overnight he achieved international recognition as one of the major pianists of our time. Quickly he became established as a multi-talented, highly eclectic artist. Crossley has for more than 25 years been internationally recognised for his brilliant technical and artistic command in an enormous repertoire of piano music. As well as performing the great solo and concerto classics of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, he has introduced a remarkable range of new music from many countries. As a soloist he premiered many more important new works by major composers including Tippett (who wrote his Piano Sonata No. 4 (1983-1984) also specifically with Crossley in mind and the work was premiered by him in 1985 in Los Angeles), Hans Werner Henze, Toru Takemitsu, Nicholas Maw, Luciano Berio, John Adams, Magnus Lindberg and George Benjamin and Henryk Górecki, and he began to record and perform the complete solo piano repertory of composers as diverse as Ravel, Debussy, Fauré, Franck, Francis Poulenc, Janácek and Tippett. He has also made something of a specialty of the significant piano part in Messiaen's Turangalîla Symphony and has recorded it with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. His recordings became contemporary yardsticks of interpretation of those works. As a duo-partner he played with leading instrumentalists, notably the violinist Arthur Grumiaux. As a broadcaster he began a remarkable career as writer and presenter of a series of ambitious landmark television documentaries on Channel 4 about leading 20th century composers, followed by programs about Franz Liszt and Ravel. As Artistic Director he was in charge of the London Sinfonietta from 1988 to 1994, shaping and overseeing its programmes and choice of artists.
As a recording artist, Paul Crossley has appeared on more than 50 releases. He has won major recording awards: the Diapason d’Or for the complete solo piano works of Ravel and Tippett; the Prix Caecilia for the Alban Berg’s Chamber Concerto with the London Sinfonietta and David Atherton; the Grand Prix du Disque de l’Academie Française for the Fauré Violin Sonatas with Arthur Grumiaux; the Deutsche Schallplatten Preis for the Lutoslawski Piano Concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen; and no fewer than 4 awards for the complete works for piano and orchestra by Igor Stravinsky with the London Sinfonietta and Esa-Pekka Salonen - a Grand Prix du Disque, an Edison Prize, a Diapason d’Or, and a Grammy nomination. His recording of Takemitsu’s Quotation of Dream (1991), for two pianos and orchestra, dedicated “to two pianists, Peter Serkin and Paul Crossley, whom I have respected in long friendship”, won the 1999 Gramophone Award for best Contemporary Music recording. Of late he has extended his talents to include composition, to mounting critical acclaim. Crossley became an Internet music marketing pioneer in 2001 when he offered his complete recording of the piano works of Takemitsu through an Internet download before he released it at the retail level.
In 1991 Paul Crossley was made an Honorary Fellow of Mansfield College, Oxford, and in 1993 received a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.