Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Charles Williams: Tone Poem –‘Lizard Point’

It is many years since I sat above Lizard Point looking far out to sea. After enjoying the view, of the cliffs, the rocky islets, the lighthouse and the Lifeboat Station, I made my way back to a hostelry in Helston where I enjoyed a pint or two if St Austell Brewery’s best bitter. According to Wikipedia, with the exception of some parts of the Scilly Isles this is the southernmost part of England.  Historians will know that Marconi carried out some of his wireless experiments at this location. Nearby is the beautiful beach at Kynance Cove with the attractive Mullion Cove a few miles further along the coast.  I do not recall when I heard about Charles Williams’ miniature tone-poem describing musically this particular landscape; however it is title that I seem to have known of for years. It was not until 2005 that a recording of this work appeared on CD.

A reviewer has alluded to Arnold Bax’s glorious tone-poem Tintagel in connection with Williams’ Lizard Point, and I believe that this is a good comparison. Whilst not being as complex as Bax’s work it is still a fine achievement that paints an effective musical picture of one of England’s great topographical landmarks. However, the big difference between the two pieces is in the dramatic sense. Bax has created a physical and emotional storm scene which is barely resolved, whereas Charles Williams has fashioned a picture of a fine summer’s day with hardly a care in the world.
Lizard Point opens with an almost Delius-like tune, but soon resolves into a ‘lighter’ style with a sweeping, romantic melody. There is a slightly more urgent middle section, before the ‘big’ tune re-establishes itself.  It is a well-balanced, finely scored work. Unfortunately it is too short in duration to develop the mood of the moment:  it was most likely designed to fit onto a single side of a 78rpm record.
The exact date of composition of Lizard Point is not known however, the date of the recording was 1954. The original catalogue number was Chappell C445.  The ‘A’ side was a Golden Trumpets by Roger Barsotti.

Charles Williams’ Lizard Point is available on The Golden Age of Light Music: Reflections of Tranquillity, GLCD5112. It is performed by the Danish State Radio Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon. The record label states that is by the Melodi Light Orchestra conducted by Ole Jensen. 

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