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Malcolm Williamson (1931-) - Lento for Strings

Born in Sydney, but settled in England by the age of 21, Williamson has never ceased to promote the Australian aboriginal culture. Allied to that, and born of his profound religious beliefs, is his humanitarian work for other minority groups, including the disabled. He also loves writing for, and working with, children (possibly the supreme challenge?). 

With influences as diverse as Britten, jazz and popular music, and (rather less obviously) Messiaen, he has developed an idiosyncratic but eminently approachable style, and composed in a wide variety of forms. Yet, notwithstanding his elevation to the dizzy heights of Master of the Queen's Music in 1975, like Arnold he remains one of those composers punished by neglect for the cardinal sin of flying in the face of the Brave New World of Total Serialism, that is, writing music that could be readily appreciated and enjoyed by the general public. 

Williamson says he particularly enjoys the string orchestra's infinite flexibility, relishing the challenge equally whether writing for virtuosi or “non-specialists”. This Lento is a little gem, from which reflect occasional glimpses of the influence of Messiaen in a fine balance between saccharine and citric acid. Imagine how easily it would accommodate the soulful sound of an Ondes Martenot threading through its texture! This short, arching dissertation on a meltingly tender melody is captivatingly prevented from lapsing into sentimentality by strategically placed harmonic booby traps. Demand an encore!
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© Paul Serotsky
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