> WALLACE Meeting of the Waters []: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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William Vincent WALLACE (1812-1865)
Meeting of the Waters - Celtic fantasies
The Minstrel Boy and Rory O'More
The Bard's Legacy

Coolun, Gary Owen and St Patrick's Day
The Meeting Of The Waters and Eveleen's Bower
Melodie Irlandaise
Annie Laurie

Roslin Castle and A Highland Lad My Love Was Born
Homage To Burns:

Impromptu on 'Somebody' and 'O, For Ane And Twenty Tarn'
The Keel Row
Ye Banks And Braes

Charlie Is My Darling and The Campbells Are Comin’
My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose and Come O'er The Stream, Charlie
Comin' Thro' the Rye
The Last Rose Of Summer

Kate Kearny and Tow, Row, Row
Robin Adair

Auld Lang Syne and The Highland Laddie
Rosemary Tuck (piano)
Rec. The Reception Room, City Hall, Waterford, Ireland, October 2001
CALA-UNITED CACD 88042 [78.32]

The composer here is not the Scottish William Wallace (1860-1940), nor yet the American William Wallace (1933- ), but an earlier, lesser known William Wallace who composed much excellent, heart-captivating music that sadly has been neglected. It is good to see that Cala has grasped the initiative to bring out this CD of his unknown fantasies.

William Wallace was born in Waterford, Southern Ireland into a musical family, the son of William Wallace, Bandmaster. The family travelled with overseas army postings and when discharged they moved to Dublin where the young William’s musical prospects were much brighter. By this time William Vincent could play almost every instrument in the Regimental Band, which he had occasionally led, and his familiarity with various instruments is evidenced later in life in the details of his orchestral writing.

Wallace Snr. joined the Adelphi Theatre Orchestra with his second son Wellington, who was a flautist. Young Vincent also became a member of the Theatre Royal Orchestra where he soon became second violin under James Badon, who had previously trained Michael Balfe. Whenever Badon was absent, Vincent led the orchestra in his place, a tribute to his precocious talent. The orchestra played in the International Music Festival of 1829, which starred the legendary violinist Paganini, and Vincent so mesmerised by his talent would sit up all night after the concerts practising the Paganini pieces. With world-class musicians visiting Dublin regularly, Vincent thus gained invaluable experience to the extent that he composed and performed his own Violin Concerto.

In 1835, to improve poor health, William Jnr moved to Sydney where he made a name as 'the Australian Paganini' by performing a concerto on the violin in the first half of the evening and one on the piano in the second half. He soon dominated the musical life of Sydney and formed an Academy of Music there.

In April 1842 the Philharmonic Symphonic Society of New York was formed and listed among the players at its first concert was: "Pianoforte and Violin, W. Wallace."

He went on to make his London concert debut as a pianist in 1845 and was well received. That year saw his first opera, Maritana, performed fifty times within three months! Two years later Wallace took it to Vienna where Maritana repeated its London success. The Viennese appreciated and loved his melodic flow of music and it is a measure of his standing that his work was staged there ahead of such composers as Wagner and Lortzing, who, of course, ultimately achieved greater fame. Five more operas were produced with Lurline (1860) and The Amber Witch (1861) considered the best (neither recorded).

While Wallace is principally remembered for Maritana, his ballads and songs graced many a singer's programme. One finds that he has a gift of graceful melody and tunefulness. He composed numerous pieces for piano and violin and solo piano in the classical mode, and arranged Scottish and Irish folk tunes with equal facility.

These Celtic fantasies were lush pieces with a musical box quality to some of them. They were clearly composed for accomplished pianists with concert grands rather than parochial pianists on parlour uprights. They are concerto-style pieces making them appropriate for virtuoso performances. Although the traditional airs are generally recognisable these Wallace compositions are more in the nature of clever settings reminiscent of the UK theme [BBC’s World Service].

The notes omit to tell us the source of the material and it is unlikely that many pieces were published because of the limited sales likely from their elaborate settings. However, a clue is given by referring to Roslin Castle as a ‘Fantaisie de Salon’. Chappell published a few of these, for one called Fantaisie de Salon sur des motifs de Lucrezia Borgia, composée et dédiée à Lady William Molesworth par W.V. Wallace sits on my shelf. Published at 3/6d it seems that Wallace also wrote folk songs in series. But why they were titled in French by this publisher of New Bond Street, London is a mystery. The settings are reminiscent of Preludes by Chopin who died in 1849. Could it be that Wallace was adopting a French style in his compositions?

Australian, Rosemary Tuck is becoming better known in Europe and is gaining serious respect in Britain. This programme provides the opportunity for her to exercise her virtuoso skills in music that has been too-long neglected. Particular charm is found in The Keel Row (tk 9) and My love is like a Red, Red Rose (tk12) where deft fingerwork, lyrical feeling and good use of dynamics is a joy to listen to.

The recording is first class and the spacious ambience of the Waterford City Hall is superb. (It would make an excellent venue for chamber recordings.) The top notes are captured with a pure and bell-like quality that brings supreme elegance to the music. (We are not told the make of the piano.) Rosemary Tuck’s performance throughout is very good and provides us with an excellent archive of these forgotten works. Hopefully, by the 2012 when we have the centenary of Wallace’s birth there will be an opportunity to hear more of this composer’s music: the orchestral parts to his operas are still in existence and a Mass of his is reputed to be very good.

The notes give a short biography on Wallace and background on the pieces (which range from 1846-1859). The dates, 1870 and 1884, accorded to two of the pieces must be refer to publication dates as Wallace was long dead by then.

Raymond Walker

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