With his fondness for neglected mid-20th-century British music, John Gibbons is the ideal interpreter for this second volume of first recordings by the relatively obscure British composer, William Wordsworth, and to bring this composer’s large and varied output out of the shadows. The recording is released this month on Toccata Classics and currently features in the Official Specialist Classical Chart.

William Wordsworth: Orchestral Music, Volume Two
Violin Concerto in A major, Op. 60 (1955)
Piano Concerto in D minor, Op. 28 (1946)
Three Pastoral Sketches, Op. 10 (1937)
Arta Arnicane, piano
Kamila Bydlowska, violin
Liepāja Symphony Orchestra
John Gibbons, conductor
Catalogue No: TOCC0526
Release Date: 01/08/2019

Following an acclaimed first volume for Toccata, this second contrasts two major neglected concertos: the gritty and muscular Piano Concerto cast in a single, tightly argued span, and the expansive and deeply touching lyrical Violin Concerto. These works are complemented by the impressionistic Three Pastoral Sketches – the composer’s earliest acknowledged orchestral score – and all three show an extraordinary command of orchestral colour.

The music of William Brocklesby Wordsworth
According to Paul Conway, “Both in inspiration and content, Wordsworth’s music displays a rugged individuality mirroring his physical environment, and an integrity that isolated him from the influence of the latest musical trends”, whilst Gerald Leach’s British Composer Profiles states that Wordwsworth’s music has “a strong identity and great variety of mood and texture”.

A great-great-grandson of the famous poet’s brother Christopher, William Brocklesby Wordsworth (1908–1988), studied with George Oldroyd and Donald Tovey, to whom he dedicated his second symphony. Apart from a period working on the land as a conscientious objector during World War II, Wordsworth was able to devote his time to composition and to campaigning for contemporary British music from his home in Hindhead, Surry, before settling at the foot of the Cairngorm Mountains.

His characteristically well-crafted output is wide-ranging and varied and includes eight symphonies, concertos for piano, violin and cello, overtures, choral, chamber and instrumental works and songs. Although initially warmly received, Wordsworth’s deeply personal music, like many mid-20th-century British composers, fell out of fashion during the 1950’s penchant for the avant-garde.

As Andrew Clements notes, “Wordsworth may have been born in the same year as both Messiaen and Elliott Carter, but his music remained almost defiantly untouched by musical developments during his own lifetime.”

Amongst influences such as Bartók, Nielsen and, to a lesser extent, Bax and Vaughan Williams, Andrew Mellor acknowledges the shadow of Sibelius looming largest in the quiet assurance of the writing; in music that is often lonely and austere. Paul Conway finds a more contemplative voice than that of his contemporaries, with a composer choosing to go his own way and the best of his music, being passionate, tough, direct and sincere.

 

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