Thursday, 19 July 2018

William Wordsworth: Variations on a Scottish Theme, op.72 (1962) Glasgow Herald review

After my post on 16 July about the recent release on the Toccata CD label of William Wordsworth’s Variations on a Scottish Theme, op.72 (1962), I found a review of the premiere performance at Perth. It was published in the Glasgow Herald on 21 March 1966. 

The reviewer, P.J.H. begins with a historical musing. He considers that ‘In the eight years since Vaughan Williams’s death (26 August 1958) his music has suffered a considerable eclipse, yet the traditional English style is still manifest in the works of William Wordsworth, whose Variations op.72 on a Scottish theme were given their public premiere in the City Hall, Perth last night (20 March) by the Perth Symphony Orchestra under their new conductor, John McLeod, a Trinity College, Glenalmond music master.’
Glenalmond is an independent boarding and day school located on the banks of the River Almond, some eight miles west of Perth. It was originally called Trinity College, Glenalmond. John McLeod, is still an active composer, clarinettist and teacher.

The Glasgow Herald review continues: ‘These eight variations and fugue on the chorus of ‘The Campbells are Coming’ were conceived for the pupils of Bryanston School [Dorset], who must have possessed a brilliant solo woodwind team and also a considerable xylophonist, as the oboe, clarinet, and percussion are prominently featured in the less facile and more rhapsodic inner variations.
At this point, one wonders if the reviewer was really listening. Wordsworth’s theme was in fact ‘A Hundred Pipers an a’ and not ‘The Campbells are Coming’.

As for the remainder of the concert, P.J.H. felt that the conductor ‘was at pains to provide a tight rhythmic backing to Geoffrey Burford’s youthful and brilliant account of Beethoven’s fourth piano concerto.’ I could find out little about Burford, save that he is an English pianist, harpsichordist and organist. Finally, the critic noted that the concert began with Mozart’s overture ‘Il Seraglio’, featured Sibelius’s Valse Triste and concluded with Haydn’s ‘jolliest symphony, that in G [major] No.88.’ He felt that it ‘drew that most attractive playing of the evening from this well-disciplined orchestra…’
As a reminder, Williams Wordsworth’s Variations on a Scottish Theme, op.72 (1962) is available on Toccata (TOCC 0480) and includes the Divertimento in D, op.58 and the Symphonies No. 4 in Eb, op.54 and No.8 ‘Pax Hominibus’. 

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