Author Topic: William Wordsworth(1908-1988)-no, not the poet!  (Read 14813 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Dundonnell

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3599
  • Edmund Rubbra(1901-86)
William Wordsworth(1908-1988)-no, not the poet!
« on: December 03, 2007, 05:35:31 PM »
There has been a good deal of comment recently on the re-emergence of the Lyrita label and the wonderful music previously available only on LP now being issued on CD. I have however been listening again to a Lyrita CD-SRCD 207-released over 15 years ago now with William Wordsworth's 2nd and 3rd Symphonies played by the LPO conducted by Nicholas Braithwaite.

In my opinion, Wordsworth merits a thread of his own. He was a direct descendant of the famous poet's brother, Christopher and studied under Sir Donald Tovey in Edinburgh. In 1961 he left his home in Surrey and moved to Invernesshire in Scotland where he remained until his death. Wordsworth helped form the Society of Scottish Composers and became its Hon. President.

Wordsworth was a prolific symphonist with eight numbered symphonies. Although Barbirolli turned the 2nd down for the Cheltenham Festival he did accept the 3rd and not only premiered it at the 1953 festival but conducted it eight times that year. The 4th symphony was premiered by Barbirolli at the 1954 Edinburgh Festival and the 5th by Boult. The 6th symphony is a choral symphony. Apparently Vaughan Williams admired Wordsworth's huge Oratorio "Dies Domini".

I don't know whether anyone else has heard the Lyrita CD but I have always been impressed by both these symphonies-especially the 2nd. There is a Nordic seriousness about the music which is somewhat Sibelian but Wordsworth also reminds me at times of Edmund Rubbra and William Alwyn. Unfortunately, it is many many years ago since I heard any other Wordsworth in BBC Scotland radio broadcasts and he appears to have been almost completely forgotten today despite the welcome revival of interest in music by composers like Richard Arnell.

Anyone who likes Rubbra or Alwyn or Arnell or who-like myself-has a lot of time for Nordic symphonies might like to seek out this disc. The symphonies do-in my opinion-well reward the listener.

lukeottevanger

  • Guest
Re: William Wordsworth(1908-1988)-no, not the poet!
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2007, 11:39:13 AM »
I have that CD - in fact I was listening to it the other day. I'm trying to think of something to say about it, but it hasn't really impressed itself on my memory that much - fine, fluent music, certainly, but nothing that really grabbed me by the throat, so to speak. However, a rider I often want to add - this isn't meant as a criticism of the composer or the music, whose quality was evident. More a criticism of myself as a listener, for not 'getting' the music, or at least not finding a way to enter it fully. More listens required, I think.

Offline vandermolen

  • Silver Subscriber
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 15021
  • Location: Rotherfield, Sussex, UK
Re: William Wordsworth(1908-1988)-no, not the poet!
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2007, 02:33:15 PM »
I have that CD - in fact I was listening to it the other day. I'm trying to think of something to say about it, but it hasn't really impressed itself on my memory that much - fine, fluent music, certainly, but nothing that really grabbed me by the throat, so to speak. However, a rider I often want to add - this isn't meant as a criticism of the composer or the music, whose quality was evident. More a criticism of myself as a listener, for not 'getting' the music, or at least not finding a way to enter it fully. More listens required, I think.

I largely agree with this. I have had the CD for some time and have played it a couple of times but, to be frank, it did not grab me in the way that Arnell's 2-5th symphonies have, almost immediately. But, I will give it another go.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Montpellier

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 197
Re: William Wordsworth(1908-1988)-no, not the poet!
« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2007, 03:04:08 PM »
I enjoyed these symphonies.  Considering he wrote all those symphonies, some sinfoniettas, 6 string quartets and works for various ensembles and soloists, one wonders at his neglect.   

 

Offline Dundonnell

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3599
  • Edmund Rubbra(1901-86)
Re: William Wordsworth(1908-1988)-no, not the poet!
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2007, 04:40:16 PM »
I would have to agree that the Wordsworth symphonies do not "grab one by the throat" but I do also agree with the description of "fine, fluent" music. There is certainly more of an immediacy in the music of Arnell or Alwyn which is why I made the comparison with Rubbra.
Wordsworth is obviously not as fine a composer as Rubbra and his music does not sound much like Rubbra but it is-I think-serious but accessible music which is worth hearing.

Wordsworth comes from the same generation as Rubbra, Walton, Lennox Berkeley, Rawsthorne, Alwyn, Tippett, Frankel and Arnold Cooke. He seems to me easier to assimilate than Tippett or Frankel and every bit as natural a symphonist as Berkeley or Rawsthorne(which is actually a little like faint praise since I am not sure whether either was actually a natural symphonist!).

Anyway...I have made my pitch for Wordsworth! I am extremely doubtful whether anyone has any plans to make more of his music available to us-sadly!

Offline Montpellier

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 197
Re: William Wordsworth(1908-1988)-no, not the poet!
« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2008, 03:58:29 PM »
For some reason I decided to listen to the 2nd again this evening.   I'm (predictably) starting to find more in the work.  The close of the first movement is rather beautiful, placid but uneasy at moments.

I do hope one of the labels decides to record more of Wordsworth's Symphonies.

Offline Dundonnell

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3599
  • Edmund Rubbra(1901-86)
Re: William Wordsworth(1908-1988)-no, not the poet!
« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2008, 05:06:40 PM »
Glad to hear that you are finding more in Wordsworth's music!

As I tried to say above, I think that he was a serious composer of genuine merit and certainly worthy of more exposure. My comparison with Rubbra was deliberate-not, as I said, because the music necessarily sounds like Rubbra's but because it repays further listening. The appeal is perhaps not immediate but it is music which grows in stature with study.

Despite the wonderful efforts of record companies like Lyrita, Chandos, Dutton etc there are still glaring gaps in the discography of 20th century British music. It always sounds so ungrateful to complain and ask for more given that a decade or two ago it appeared inconceivable that we would have such a choice in selecting complete or almost complete sets of music by Alwyn, Arnold, Bax, Frankel, Lloyd, Rawsthorne, Rubbra, Scott, and Simpson. I was disappointed however that Chandos gave us only a truncated selection of Sir Lennox Berkely's orchestral music and I still wait for the attention due to composers like Cooke, Fricker, Hamilton, Jones, Milner and Wordsworth.

Mark G. Simon

  • Guest
Re: William Wordsworth(1908-1988)-no, not the poet!
« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2008, 07:03:14 AM »
Sounds like his music could be nicely paired with that of Samuel Taylor-Coleridge.

Offline Dundonnell

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3599
  • Edmund Rubbra(1901-86)
Re: William Wordsworth(1908-1988)-no, not the poet!
« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2009, 04:19:28 PM »
An excellent article on Wordsworth by Paul Conway has appeared on Musicweb-

http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2009/Jan09/Wordsworth_Conway.htm

Reading it I am more than ever convinced that this is a composer seriously in need of re-discovery! Maybe Dutton should move on to Wordsworth once they have finished with Arnell. :)

Offline vandermolen

  • Silver Subscriber
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 15021
  • Location: Rotherfield, Sussex, UK
Re: William Wordsworth(1908-1988)-no, not the poet!
« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2009, 08:44:31 AM »
I have the Lyrita CD but did not make much of it before. I will listen again and post later.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Dundonnell

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3599
  • Edmund Rubbra(1901-86)
Re: William Wordsworth(1908-1988)-no, not the poet!
« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2009, 09:06:17 AM »
GO ON!

Give the 2nd Symphony a try!

Tell you what...I shall be convinced by the Madetoja 2nd if you are convinced by the Wordsworth. Deal?

(Oh...and read the article, if you have time!)

Offline The new erato

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 14630
Re: William Wordsworth(1908-1988)-no, not the poet!
« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2009, 12:49:25 PM »
The slow movement of no 2 was included on a Gramophone sampler in the early 90-ies (could it have been one of the runnerups for record of the year or something like that?) and I've always found it extraordinarily beautiful. My knowledge of WW stops there, however.

Offline donaldopato

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 122
    • Puggingham Palace
Re: William Wordsworth(1908-1988)-no, not the poet!
« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2009, 04:23:39 AM »
Initially did not make much of an impression on me. Sort of gray, conventional and reticent, somewhat how the composer was portrayed in the excellent article. I will dust it off and give another listen.

Would love to hear the more unconventional later symphonies, but not holding my breath that will be soon.
Until I get my coffee in the morning I'm a fit companion only for a sore-toothed tiger." ~Joan Crawford

Offline vandermolen

  • Silver Subscriber
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 15021
  • Location: Rotherfield, Sussex, UK
Re: William Wordsworth(1908-1988)-no, not the poet!
« Reply #13 on: January 08, 2009, 05:44:10 AM »
GO ON!

Give the 2nd Symphony a try!

Tell you what...I shall be convinced by the Madetoja 2nd if you are convinced by the Wordsworth. Deal?

(Oh...and read the article, if you have time!)

OK OK, calm down, will listen tonight  ;D
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Dundonnell

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3599
  • Edmund Rubbra(1901-86)
Re: William Wordsworth(1908-1988)-no, not the poet!
« Reply #14 on: January 08, 2009, 07:38:53 AM »
Trying to remain calm and measured ;D

I am listening to the 2nd symphony again to try to determine how "gray, conventional and reticent" it actually might sound. Maybe it is because I am a 'dour Scot' or 'conventional and reticent' myself by nature but this is music which appeals to me. (Wordsworth, of course, was a Scot by adoption!)

I return to my comparisons with Rubbra and-I now feel-that I may have underplayed the similarities between the 2nd and some Rubbra or maybe the 2nd is just Wordworth's most Rubbraesque symphony? Of course it doesn't 'grab you' but neither does Rubbra! It is not music to half-listen to...not that I am suggesting that those who have listened have not given it full attention already ;D It is music to immerse oneself in. When I do that I find a nobility of utterance which is very impressive and reminds me again and again of my beloved Rubbra :) The first movement grows with a steady pace and has a brooding contemplative air. The presto second movement sparkles and glistens(albeit in a 'restrained' fashion) while the splendid Brucknerian slow movement is undoubtedly the heart of the work.

http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2004/mar04/wordsworth.htm

Sorry if I am becoming a Wordsworth bore ;D
« Last Edit: January 08, 2009, 07:42:44 AM by Dundonnell »

Offline donaldopato

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 122
    • Puggingham Palace
Re: William Wordsworth(1908-1988)-no, not the poet!
« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2009, 03:30:22 PM »
I am giving the Wordsworth disc a spin as I write. Better than I remembered, I got it when Lyrita came back on the scene a while back and it may have gotten lost in the shuffle as I listened to the bounty.

Yes, this is music that takes a while to express itself, a bit introverted, and I still say a bit gray (that is not always bad) but I can see that it is worth listening too again. I will press on.
Until I get my coffee in the morning I'm a fit companion only for a sore-toothed tiger." ~Joan Crawford

Offline donaldopato

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 122
    • Puggingham Palace
Re: William Wordsworth(1908-1988)-no, not the poet!
« Reply #16 on: January 08, 2009, 04:47:43 PM »
I am quite enjoying the inventive slow movement of the 3rd. Almost Shostakovichian (Is that a word??) with its threadbare melodies and interesting use of the solo celesta.
Until I get my coffee in the morning I'm a fit companion only for a sore-toothed tiger." ~Joan Crawford

Offline Dundonnell

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3599
  • Edmund Rubbra(1901-86)
Re: William Wordsworth(1908-1988)-no, not the poet!
« Reply #17 on: January 08, 2009, 05:23:33 PM »
Thanks for giving Wordsworth another try :) I am encouraged that you are perhaps finding a little more in the 2nd symphony :)

There are a number of British composers whose music is characterised by reticence and introspection(a national trait??). Understatement?
Certainly not music to set Wordsworth's beloved Highland heather on fire but none the worse for being more meditative, restrained, contemplative.

Oh......sorry...I did not mean to post again until after further reactions ::)

Offline vandermolen

  • Silver Subscriber
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 15021
  • Location: Rotherfield, Sussex, UK
Re: William Wordsworth(1908-1988)-no, not the poet!
« Reply #18 on: January 09, 2009, 04:26:09 PM »
GO ON!

Give the 2nd Symphony a try!

Tell you what...I shall be convinced by the Madetoja 2nd if you are convinced by the Wordsworth. Deal?

(Oh...and read the article, if you have time!)

It was a bit late last night (having listened to Alan Bush's Second Symphony through twice) by the time I got round to Wordsworth's Second Symphony, but my attention was held throughout and I enjoyed this more than I recall having done so before. It is a sombre, searching and eloquent score which, I suspect, needs repeated listening to give up its secrets. Rubbra was certainly the other composer who came to mind at times. I will certainly be returning to Wordsworth's Second Symphony.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Dundonnell

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3599
  • Edmund Rubbra(1901-86)
Re: William Wordsworth(1908-1988)-no, not the poet!
« Reply #19 on: January 09, 2009, 04:50:52 PM »
 :) :) :)

Can't say fairer than that ;D