The music of William Wordsworth (a great-great-great nephew of the poet of the same name) has been receiving more frequent recordings and performances, mostly in Britain, as the more conservative strands of 20th century British music are being rediscovered. Wordsworth wrote eight symphonies, six string quartets, and three concertos, two of which are recorded here. These works alone set him apart from his immediate ancestor, Vaughan Williams, who was never very comfortable with either the concerto or the string quartet. Wordsworth studied in the 1930s with the musicologist Donald Francis Tovey, who perhaps left a tendency toward dense contrapuntal writing in Wordsworth's work. These are tonal works, and the influence of Vaughan Williams is inescapable in them, but all in all, it is striking how little they sound like Vaughan Williams, given the circumstances, even in the Three Pastoral Sketches, Op. 10, of 1937. The annotators here aptly characterize Wordsworth's style as "downstream from that of Vaughan Williams and Sibelius," recognizing the tremendous popularity of the composer in Britain during and after World War II. All three works, but especially the Violin Concerto in A major, Op. 60, tend to unfold organically in the manner of Sibelius' orchestral works. Perhaps the strongest of the three pieces is the Piano Concerto in D minor, Op. 28, of 1946. It is beautifully orchestrated, with long, rather bleak Sibelian passages featuring the piano and one or two other instruments. The work is basically in the usual three-movement form, with a slow introduction and final coda marked as separate movements. The performances by a group of Latvian musicians conducted by Britain's John Gibbons are idiomatic, and the whole thing is recommended.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Piano Concerto in D minor, Op. 28|
|Three Pastoral Sketches, Op. 10|
|Violin Concerto in A major, Op. 60|