Grace Williams: Chamber music (Naxos)

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If you haven’t heard of Grace Williams, it’s not entirely down to vicious male suppression. The Welsh composer (1906-1977) studied in London with Ralph Vaughan Williams around the same time as Elizabeth Maconchy and Imogen Holst. Women composers were emerging in the 1920s and receiving strong encouragement.

Grace Williams was particularly friendly with Benjamin Britten, as their extant letters attest. She remained in London through the 1930s and was a visible part of its musical life. During the War she began to suffer from depression. She returned home to Barry in 1945 for the last 30 years of her life.

None of the pieces on this album, brought to life by Madeleine Mitchell and her ensemble, has been recorded before. All are immensely agreeable without striking the ear with great originality. A superb sextet is redolent of Vaughan Williams at his most pastoral, a violin sonata of Frank Bridge at his most nautical. A suite for 9 instruments would have pleased Nadia Boulanger for its Stravinsky hints.

Mitchell puts heart and soul into the violin sonata and leads the rest with fizz and flair. This is occasional music in the literal sense of the term: it demands the right occasion and the right mood. I’m still listening.

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About Author

Norman Lebrecht is a prolific writer on music and cultural affairs. His blog, Slipped Disc, is one of the most popular sites for cultural news. He presents The Lebrecht Interview on BBC Radio 3 and is a contributor to several publications, including the Wall Street Journal and The Standpoint. Visit every Friday for his weekly CD review // Norman Lebrecht est un rédacteur prolifique couvrant les événements musicaux et Slipped Disc, est un des plus populaires sites de nouvelles culturelles. Il anime The Lebrecht Interview sur la BBC Radio 3 et collabore à plusieurs publications, dont The Wall Street Journal et The Standpoint. Vous pouvez lire ses critiques de disques chaque vendredi.

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