George Walker is one the most senior living
American composers, having been on the musical scene since the
1940s. He writes in a somewhat dissonant manner, but is not without
expressiveness. The recording under consideration here covers
several aspects of his output and is especially interesting for
containing some of his recent work.
The String Quartet No. 2 starts off plaintively and quickly becomes
contrapuntal. The second movement emphasizes plucked strings,
but the piece really gets going in the third movement, which is
more melodic than the first two and full of pizzicati. The last
movement contains an interesting fugue. It should be mentioned
that the Lyric for Strings, also on this disc, is a movement from
Walker’s earlier Quartet No. 1 and is still his best-known piece.
It is serious and quite moving.
The most interesting work here is the Poem for Soprano and Chamber
Ensemble, to words by T.S. Eliot. This is very solid, with an
advanced, but impressive solo part and a fascinating use of the
instruments, especially the piano. The use of Sprechstimme by
the main soloist and accompaniment by two other soloists is also
The most recent item on the disc is the Modus for Chamber Ensemble
It is in four sections, with two guitars prominent. They definitely
add to the atmosphere. A solo flute is also in evidence. Each
movement builds on the previous one so that the last produces
a true feeling of culmination. Unfortunately, equal praise cannot
be given to the Five Fancies.
Of the five Walker songs recorded here, two definitely stand out.
“Never Saw a Moon” uses programmatic elements in the accompaniment
to support the vocal part and has an Emily Dickinson feeling.
The Wyatt song “And Will Thou Leave Me Thus” uses different intervals
to mirror the emotions of the text.
All of the ensembles heard on this recording play very competently
and with great dedication to the music. Soprano Janet Stasio is
especially notable. One could hardly imagine anyone else with
a better understanding of the music. Patricia Green is also fine
in her three songs, although James Martin is not nearly so good.
As the recordings were made in several different places, recording
quality is somewhat variable.