VIDEO PODCAST: Slava Ukraini! - recorded on 24 February 2022, the day Europe woke up to the news that Vladimir Putin's Russian forces had invaded Ukraine. A fifty minute video which also features Caitríona O'Leary and Eric Fraad discussing their new film Island of Saints, and pays tribute to Joseph Horovitz, Malcolm Troup and Maria Nockin.
VIDEO PODCAST: Women Composers - Our special hour-long illustrated feature on women composers includes contributions from Diana Ambache, Gail Wein, Hilary Tann, Natalie Artemas-Polak and Victoria Bond.
I have just had the privilege to be able to hear this very new work, and this is the first music I have heard by this composer of whom Yehudi Menuhin wrote 'master of intricate patterns and forms'. I have to say that I was suitably impressed. This forty-seven-minute piece is original and impressive and in the tradition of a true symphony. There are moments of considerable power, and also moments of great beauty. It was largely composed in 2018-2019 and received some revisions before being finally completed in 2021.
The symphony opens with a bold, unison string passage that gives way to a strong and energetic full orchestra. A series of more delicate sections follow, and there are times when one feels a restlessness held in check, which one knows is going to emerge again. It attempts to several times, but it doesn't fully emerge again until the final few bars of the movement.
Listen — Adrian Williams: First Movement (Symphony No 1)
(10:03-10:55) ℗ 2022 English Symphony Orchestra :
The second movement, a scherzando, is fast and playful, asks a lot of the players technically, and there is some brilliant writing for the clarinet. The florid wind writing, spiky brass and percussion, and shimmering string writing remind me a lot of Stravinsky's The Firebird, and Adrian Williams is certainly a master orchestrator. This is probably the easiest movement for a first-time listener of this symphony.
Listen — Adrian Williams: Second Movement (Symphony No 1)
(16:35-17:20) ℗ 2022 English Symphony Orchestra :
The third movement is the composer's emotional response to some images of recent bushfires in Australia that were particularly devastating and where there was considerable loss of life and property, as well as the effect it had on the flora and fauna. This is an intense lament, that at times becomes anguish and shock, but there are moments of great reflection and stillness as if one is looking over a desolate charred landscape.
Listen — Adrian Williams: Third Movement (Symphony No 1)
(22:52-23:40) ℗ 2022 English Symphony Orchestra :
The final movement is the longest, at over seventeen minutes. Low bass rumblings reinforced by contrabassoon and low brass soon give way to energetic exuberance by the rest of the orchestra. That does not last long: the music slows down and there is a tender violin solo which eventually evolves into a luscious flute solo. This weaves through the orchestra and leads to a more impassioned, but still slow section. There are many slow, sustained tension and release elements in this music, but in true style, the music builds to a dramatic ending. In this movement, I constantly think of Sibelius: even though the musical language is very different, many of the elements of thematic development and texture, at least to my ears, are there.
Listen — Adrian Williams: Fourth Movement (Symphony No 1)
(47:37-48:35) ℗ 2022 English Symphony Orchestra :
I am impressed by the playing of the English Symphony Orchestra, and whilst there are not many long solos, there are lots of short ones, and the technical demands are high on all the players. Ensemble is also very important, and all sections are balanced and disciplined. Conductor Kenneth Woods' direction is clear and assured, and the recording is clear and well balanced with great presence.
I believe there will a CD release of this recording on Nimbus later in the year, and this would be one well worth purchasing.
Copyright © 26 March 2022