Rivier and Messiaen were the teachers of the
Welsh composer Gareth Walters. Not that I detect the voice of
Messiaen at all; at least not in this first Walters collection
on CD. On the other hand Britten is occasionally a presence
in the mix. His starkness is evident in the raw upward bristling
thrusts of the quartet in the first song of Cân y galon.
The second song hints at Rivier’s cleanly athletic springy string
writing but combines this with a vocal line which has more in
common with the troubadour spirit of Poulenc. The last song
Cân y Fam i'w Phlentyn is cool, emotionally speaking
yet tender. The Little Suite for flute
and harp is by turns lively-jocular, sunnily drowsy, gawkily
jazzy and bucolic. It has a sweet disposition and might be seen
as a sort of fusion between Roussel and Benjamin. I can imagine
a more fluent performance than this one but both players communicate
The four movement Violin Sonata is very
spirited and gives vent to a densely lyrical voice threaded
through with turbulence. This aspect can be felt in the sometimes
angular and singing passion of the two outer movements. An easeful
tenderness saturates the touching and throatily emotional Lento.
After such intensity Walters releases the tension with a short
sing-song Moderato yet preserves enough of the rawness
and tempered dissonance to give the music savour. This is a
wonderful work with a ferocious power and glimmering beauty.
This disc has been well thought through. Again
after the passionate interplay of the Sonata comes repose in
the shape of the little harp Berceuse with its
delicate charms – adroit to the instrument’s soul and heart.
It has a demure Gallic innocence. Lastly comes the Poésies
du soir. This is a sultry hot-house triptych of songs
to words by Sully Prudhomme, André Thiriet and Paul Bourget.
Against a motile string backdrop, wind instruments sing out.
The orchestral effect is rather Sibelian in the central song
but never at the expense of that sensuous Gallic pulsation.
The final song is sheerly lovely, ending with a long-held breath
as emotionally striking as the burred held chord at the end
of the second song.
The sound throughout is vivacious and immediate
sometimes to the point of ferocity. In the case of the mezzo
in Poésies du soir this rather bring out her vibrato
which is more emphatic than that of the soprano in the Cân
Britten was an early mentor to Walters but his
music escapes unscathed. His studies in Paris had a more enduring
impact although not in terms of sounding like Messiaen. If anything
he seems, in the songs, to assume the mantle of the sensuous
chanson tradition with modest infusions of Ravel and Poulenc.
He reminded me a little of one of his contemporaries – Carey
Blyton in his orchestral song cycles. In the chamber works there
is a Gallic warmth to the writing but also a lyrical countryside
indulgence associated with early Howells.
As ever with Toccata we get splendid notes –
this time by the composer – plus all the words and translations
together with artist biographies.
If you have a taste for the genres I have mentioned
I cannot imagine your being disappointed with this newly revealed