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Cat. No. CHAN 10359 Price: £10.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10359 - Williamson: Orchestral Works, Volume 1
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Available From: 01 February 2006
Williamson was born in Sydney and studied under Eugene Goossens among others. He visited London in 1950 and discovered a new world of music – the then newly empowered serial avant-garde and the music of Messiaen – of which he had previously been ignorant. While he explored serialism it was not long before he embraced a personal eclecticism encompassing popular elements, both rhythmic and melodic, and was soon within the orbit of the Britten circle with a relatively accessible, melodic style. Williamson became Master of the Queen’s Music on the death of Sir Arthur Bliss in 1975; the first non-Briton to hold the post since the early days of the office. Despite this position, some 30 years on one has difficulty in remembering any pieces written by Williamson in his official capacity, but this series is sure to revive interest in this important composer.

The wonderfully entertaining orchestral suite from the opera Our Man in Havana was first heard from the BBC Scottish Orchestra in 1966. Williamson’s operatic setting of Graham Greene’s novel was first produced at Sadler’s Wells in 1963 and features the latest techniques of the day combined with Latin-American rhythms, memorable tunes and a haunting waltz song, all of which are heard prominently in the suite. The tuneful overture Santiago de Espada is surely Australia’s answer to Bernstein’s ever-popular overture Candide. Coupled with these works on this first volume are the rarely recorded Concerto grosso and Sinfonietta.
Reviews

"Our Man in Havana, based on Graham Greene’s novel, is among the most colourful of post-war British operas, with its catchy Cuban rhythms and its tunes first cousin to those in Broadway musicals. Until this execellent disc, the first of a projected Williamson series, not a note of it had been recorded, and this suite of four substantial movements makes one long for a full-scale stage revival... Rumon Gamba conducts fresh, crisp performances with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, very well scored."
The Penguin Guide - 1000 Greatest Classical Recordings 2011-12

Williamson’s technical facility and stylistic diversity is one this; what he did with his skills is another: the music here is really quite wonderful and played (the occasional lapse of ensemble notwithstanding) with palpable affection and devotion and is recorded with clarity and dynamism… This release confirms him as a rather special composer.
International Record Review

All of them show how Williamson was highly skilled at manipulating a wide range of musical material, and how he could juxtapose apparently incompatible types of music to real theatrical effect. And between the tongue-in-cheek parodies and pastiches there are hints of something more searching and personal, suggesting that the chameleon-like character really was an artfully constructed mask.
The Guardian

Reminiscent of Malcolm Arnold , these catchy scores in exuberant performances should help restore the reputation of the late Master of the Queen’s Music.
Classic FM Magazine

 

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