Available for £10.00
cheque payable to "Will Todd", Tyalgum Press,1 Albert St, Western Hill, Durham,
Co. Durham DH1 4RL ( 0191 383 2307
The composer, Will Todd was born in Durham, England in 1970. It was during
the years 1988-1993 (while a student at Bristol University) that he began
to rise to some musical prominence. The Bristol connection is very strong
in this major anthology of his music. His opera Isambard Kingdom Brunel
(1991) charts the life and torments of the Victorian engineer. The opera
was written for the 150th anniversary of Brunel's ship SS Great Britain is
now a museum in Bristol docklands. The Brunel Ensemble are a Bristol-based
orchestra. The recordings were made in Bristol and Bristol-based composer
Eric Wetherell is the producer of the concerto recording.
Don't be fooled. These are ambitious works for or with full orchestra.
The Brunel Ensemble is a large grouping founded to perform Will Todd's opera
Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It has continued and has Malcolm Williamson
as its President. They have already recorded Williamson's seventh symphony
and were to have given a very rare performance of Williamson's second symphony
in the near future but that has apparently had to be cancelled. They are
clearly one of the most exciting arts organisations in the UK given their
The Brunel Suite is a five movement (17 min) piece of span and epic
sweep. Destiny and Demons sets the scene with eruptive brass, romantic
ascents for the violins and horns and a touch of the machine age (Mossolov's
Zavod). Ellen (Brunel's first love) is a tender Rachmaninovian
tune taken at an easy reflective loping pace - touching and memorable, rising
to a climax of broad but not obvious spread - wonderful! Gossip is
a fine contribution to British light music and reminded me at times of the
irresistible atmosphere of Geoffrey Bush's Summer Serenade and at
others of a symphonic West End musical. The long violinistic lines of The
Death (a touch of the big tune from Sibelius 5) have the expected element
of tragedy but overwhelming is a door opened out onto triumphs and confident
tomorrows. The suite ends with Judgement which restates and synthesises
elements of Ellen, The Death and Destiny and Demons and
ends with the thuds and off-beats salvos suggestive of the bleak Victorian
machine age and the machine-room serfs of Fritz Lang's Metropolis.
We can only hope that the whole opera will be recorded.
Midwinter is a big piece written in an idiom that will be familiar
to anyone who knows their William Mathias (This Worlde's Joie, Lux
Aeterna, World's Fire), George Lloyd (Vigil of Venus) and
Patrick Hadley (The Hills - recently reissued by EMI). Like these
works, Midwinter is very English, wintry, hard with ice and warmed
with burnished strings. Its vocal parts are in touch with the winter journeys
of Vaughan Williams 'scholar gypsy' in Oxford Elegy and Bax's own
medievalism in his This Worlde's Joie. In fact a medieval gothic air
hangs like a chimera over the whole work. These are cold landscapes: the
blacks of shadow and night contrast with a snowy-dazzle and the sun coruscating
off icy brooks and lakes. There is a risen religious and sensual ecstasy
in the sung words 'It was the time of midwinter that our love began and the
snow fell' but this is by no means restricted to this track. It also resounds
through the closing pages of Miracle in which sacred and profane collide
in careless abandon. 'Take your hand and lay it on my heart' speaks immediately
and accessibly to the listener. Love is a superbly controlled love
duet (sample it at track 10). The words are by Todd's usual librettist: Ben
Dunwell who wrote the words for The Burning Road (recorded by Silva)
and the Brunel opera.
The concerto is for tenor saxophone and orchestra. This work was clearly
a relaxation from the torrid trouble of Brunel. An attractive work
it adds richly and with personality to the already growing repertoire of
such concertos. Three movements of often jazz-inflected music need not cause
shudders among the traditionalists for here the music spurs and invigorates.
The work opens upbeat and then imbibes some of Edvard Munch's glum sea-spirit.
The sax plays the insinuating lyric singer blazing through a kaleidoscopic
multitude of styles: commercial jazz, 1960s Gallic film music, Vaudeville,
Sondheim, Las Vegas neon, Nyman and Malcolm Arnold. The orchestral sound
is a big one but it does not close the door on yielding tenderness (the central
Ballad). The concerto avoids Broadway's tinnily commercial soul and
the song is sung and swung by Ben Waghorn with lyric rush and élan.
We can now hope not only for a commercial recording of the opera but also
of the violin concerto and the trumpet concerto as well as a number of larger
scale choral works.
The disc is produced by Nimbus and the production values are very high, in
the insert blending solid information with attractive design.
Recommended warmly and with urgency.
A FULLER PROFILE OF WILL TODD APPEARS AT THE FOOT OF THIS
Note: A number of composers of lyric substance are beginning to rise to
prominence through the medium of CD. Todd is one and one of the foremost.
Let us also remember LIONEL SAINSBURY's violin concerto and preludes (only
the latter available on CD) and IAN VENABLES glorious personally distinctive
English school songs.
WILL TODD composer
Will Todd was born and brought up in the North-East of England and attended
Bristol University from 1988 to 1993 where he studied with Raymond Warren
and Adrian Beaumont. During his time at Bristol he had performances of many
works including an orchestral tone poem Winter Dances, a Saxophone
Concerto, Sonatina for Orchestra and the jazz inspired Chamber Concerto.
While at Bristol Will Todd wrote his first work in collaboration with librettist
Ben Dunwell, the musical Table for Two which was premiered in 1991.
In 1992 St Margarets Society of Queens College, Cambridge commissioned
Midwinter a 40 minute cantata for choir, soloists and full orchestra
also to words by Ben Dunwell. Whilst working for an M.Mus (1991-93) Will
Todd completed a full length opera Isambard Kingdom Brunel which received
its first performance in Bristol's Colston Hall in July 1993 (libretto by
From 1993 to 1996 Will Todd was based in the North-East where he undertook
a variety of projects. In 1994 he was commissioned to write a children's
musical Box of Tricks (book by Tim Fowler) and in 1995 his oratorio
Saint Cuthbert received its first performance in Durham Cathedral.
Written to celebrate the millennium of the City of Durham Saint Cuthbert
has received subsequent performances most recently by Durham University
Choral Society in 1996.
In 1996 Will Todd was commissioned to write a work to celebrate the 60th
anniversary of The Jarrow March. The resulting cantata The Burning Road
with words once again by Ben Dunwell was performed in Durham Cathedral
and at The Derngate Northampton in 1996/97. 1996 also saw the premiere of
Will Todd's Violin Concerto which was commissioned by the Brunel Ensemble
and performed by Christopher George in Bristol at St George's, Brandon Hill.
As well as a spell of composition teaching at New College Durham, Will Todd
was also Composer in Association at York Music Centre from 1993-96 where
he completed 7 commissions including his English Folk Song Suite,
Fanfare Theme and Dance and Yorkshire Dance. Other works during
this time include The Sacred Three written for Malvern Girls' College,
a children's show The Greatest Gameshow on Earth, In Praise of
Trees (Bedales School), Magnificat (Queens' College Chapel Choir),
and a Rite: A Communion Service.
In 1997 Will Todd was commissioned to write a musical based on the biblical
story of Daniel. With words by Ben Dunwell, Daniel and the Pride of Kings
received its first performance in February 1998 and has since been
commercially recorded. Lemington Male Voice Choir commissioned The Ballad
of Will Jobling which was premiered at The City Hall, Newcastle in October
1997. Will Todd also prepared a reduced scoring of Tosca which was
commissioned by Scottish based 'Opera On A Shoe String' and wrote Sail
Home One Day (NSPCC Christmas concerts) and A Pageant for Christmas
(Durham School). More recently he has worked on the dance opera
Proserpina with director/choreographer Darren Royston which received
a 'works in progress' performance in Battersea Arts Centre in August.
In September 1999 he will be working at the Northlands Festival in Wick on
a specially commissioned community opera Tales from the End of
Northworld. Future commissions include a large scale choral work for
Derby Choral Union (March 2000) and works for The Brunel Ensemble (Autumn
2000), York Guildhall Orchestra (Spring 2000), and Youth Musical Durham (2001).
In September 1998 Will Todd attended Kent based OperaLab where he worked
with New York playwright David Simpatico on The Screams of Kitty
Genovese. This music theatre work based on the real life murder of New
Yorker Kitty Genovese in 1964 is being enlarged during the coming year prior
to a full production, commissioned by the Royal Academy. Other theatre projects
include a new musical Between Love and Passion which is an adaptation
of an F. Scott Fitzgerald story and starts a five week run at the New End
Theatre, Hampstead in July.
In October Crouch End Festival Chorus will be giving the London premiere
of The Burning Road at the Central Methodist Hall Westminster which
will coincide with the launch of the commercial recording by Silva Classics.
There are several recordings of music by Will Todd including Midwinter (Brunel
Ensemble/Christopher Austin) a full length CD which also includes the saxophone
concerto and a concert suite from the opera Brunel.
Will Todd has also produced a recording of his cantata The Burning Road
with Crouch End Festival Chorus and David Temple for Silva Classics and
his work is featured on several other commercial recordings and several new
recordings are planned during the next 18 months.
Will Todd is a keen performer of jazz piano. He has a quartet which plays
regularly in the North-East and in Scotland. Will Todd presently publishes
his own music under the name Tyalgum Press.
St. Cuthbert - oratorio
First performed in Durham Cathedral in 1995. Subsequent re-scoring and second
performance, also in Durham Cathedral, in December 1996. Plans are currently
being developed for a new commercial recording of the piece.
Tales from the End of Northworld. A community opera commissioned by Mary
Miller at the Northlands Festival
WILL TODD events
The Burning Road Cambridge Performance, venue TBA
15 Premiere of Derby Choral Union commission (oratorio), A Song of
Creation. Derby Cathedral.
16 Recording of A Song of Creation for CD release, Derby.
TBA Possible second performance / live BBC broadcast of A Song of Creation
TBA Premiere of Trumpet Concerto - City of York Symphony Orchestra, venue
TBA Release of A Song of Creation CD
TBA The Screams of Kitty Genovese premiere, Royal Academy, London
TBA Commission for English National Opera's Bayliss Project, Southwark Cathedral