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William Brocklesby WORDSWORTH (1908-1988)
Symphonies: No. 2 in D, Op. 34 (1947/8) [43’45]; No. 3 in C, Op. 48 (1948) [27’20].
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaite.
No rec. info given. DDD

William Wordsworth (a descendant of the poet’s brother, Christopher) was a student of Sir Donald Tovey in Edinburgh. From his mentor he took a penchant for traditional forms – other influences identified by Richard Noble in his booklet notes include Sibelius and Bartók (fragmented, energetic motifs). He met Shostakovich in 1959 in the Soviet Union and later formed the Society of Scottish Composers. Apparently prolific (his output includes eight symphonies), it is instructional, indeed enlightening, actually to get to hear some of his music, especially when it is as well played and recorded as in the present instance.

The Second Symphony is dedicated to his teacher, Tovey. Apparently it was rejected for broadcast by the BBC because the score was written in pencil, not ink!. However, Barbirolli turned it down also (just because it didn’t appeal to his tastes rather than his calligraphic preferences). In the conventional four movements (slow movement placed third), it displays a formidable imagination. The sombre introduction (Andante largamente) includes a theme based on all twelve notes of the tonal chromatic that contrasts with the initially happy-go-lucky Allegro. This movement carries varied terrain, though, and Wordsworth demonstrates real harmonic sensitivity both here (try 11’50-12’00ff) and throughout the work

The Presto second movement is sparklingly performed. Active, shifting and agile, the crystal clarity of the recording helps to pin-point every detail. But the highlight is surely the extended (13’33) slow movement, marked Adagio molto cantabile (echoes of Brucknerian breadth here). This is a very heart-felt statement that flows freely and inevitably. The finale is lively and anything but facile.

Chronologically, the Third Symphony followed on immediately. The first movement is characterised by unrest – tempos change, textures refuse to settle (the winding clarinet solo that begins at 1’26 holds the key to the movement’s aura in microcosm). The inventive slow movement (Andante espressivo) is also the longest (13’45 as opposed to 7’29 and 6’06). The celesta colouring is most affecting and there is some sterling solo work, particularly from the oboe. The effect of the emotion of this movement is such that the finale seems a little bit of a disappointment, a brief ‘Allegro deciso’ whose jauntiness somehow does not fully lift the clouds of the Andante.

The recording is everything one has come to expect from Lyrita. The performances are eloquent in the extreme and represent a most persuasive document. Much of this music is either lively or lovely (sometimes both). But it is never, ever merely facile. Do try to hear this disc.

Colin Clarke

Symphonies 1 and 5

The Lyrita catalogue


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