The Welsh composer, Grace Williams, was born in Barry, Glamorganshire, in 1906 and studied under Vaughan Williams at the Royal College of Music. There she met Elizabeth Maconchy, another composer of distinction, who remained her close friend for life. She returned to live in Barry where she remained for the rest of her days and her music is imbued with feelings for the seascapes of her home area.
Her music is highly accessible and reveals an attractive yet strong artistic personality which is instantly recognisable. The collection of works on this CD were written between 1940 and 1963 and bring together recordings from both EMI and Decca by the London Symphony , the Royal Philharmonic and the English Chamber Orchestras under the batons of Sir Charles Groves and David Atherton. Although dating from the 1970s, the recordings still sound well.
The Fantasia on Welsh Nursery Tunes (1940) is based on a number of tunes which the composer uses to construct an exhilarating and highly attractive short orchestral piece. It was quite a hit when first broadcast during the war and might be considered 'light music' but the sheer inventiveness lifts it above that description.
Carillons for oboe and orchestra (1965) is a delightful work in four short movements. Penillion (1955) takes its name from the Welsh word for 'stanzas' and refers to a Welsh tradition of improvisations on vocal counterpoints. This again is in four movements, the first of which uses the composers favourite instrument, the trumpet, the lay out the melody of the penillion.
The Trumpet Concerto (1963)is a splendid work for this instrument and is one of the most striking compositions for the trumpet that I know. The soloist is Howard Snell. It is one of those pieces that, when you remember it, you have to go and play otherwise it will nag you until you do.
Finally, Sea Sketches for string orchestra (1944) is another early but still characteristic work. This is in five short movements, each with a nautical title such as 'Channel Sirens' and 'Breakers'.
We should be grateful to Lyrita for rescuing these fine recordings and making them available. Grace Williams is a fine composer - her music should not be forgotten.
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