Malcolm Williamson

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dulcinea
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Malcolm Williamson

Post by dulcinea » Wed May 09, 2012 8:15 am

This Aussie and fellow Catholic sounds much more interesting than his compatriot Grainger, the token Australian of WSMR-FM; what can you tell me about him?
Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluya!

stenka razin
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Re: Malcolm Williamson

Post by stenka razin » Wed May 09, 2012 8:52 am

I found this book review and thought it might be helpful:


AmazonUK (£12.97) AmazonUS

Malcolm Williamson - A Mischievous Muse
Authors: Paul Harris; Anthony Meredith
Publisher: Omnibus Press
Published on: 14/09/2007
Format: Biography
Length: 536 pages
Language: English
ISBN: 9781847721020
Price: £19.95


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------



This is a solidly written biography by which I do not mean stolid. The evident rigour which these writers bring to their work is worn lightly. That there are footnotes and appendices does not stop this book being eminently and fluently readable. This is all the more to the authors' credit given their adroit use of quotation from original sources some of these being very personal indeed.

This is primarily and overwhelmingly a biography not a study of the music although drawing on press cuttings and the like we soon gain a feeling for the music that is being described.

It's a big book and well indexed. The pages are liberally laid out with a host of photographs. These are printed direct onto the paper - no ghetto of glossy plate pages. Pictures appear next to the text to which they relate. This again aids the book with coherence and narrative flow.

It's a mark of the book's approach that the list of Williamson's works is not the usual pulseless recital of works by date and genre. Instead the authors give each work a personable thumbnail description. It's the sort of approach that might yet enthuse concert promoters and explorer conductors. Just what is needed. There is so much Williamson to discover. Even recentish works like the Mass of Christ the King have fallen into desuetude. This is quite unjust - time for a revival of the Mass and the premiere of the Fourth Piano Concerto written for Marguerite Wolff.

Williamson left the damaged and wounded along the way and cocked a snook at the Establishment both in the UK and Australia and the Royal Family. After whirlwind years when his productivity and reliability with commissions became a byword he collapsed into delays and controversy. This was just when this very solid reputation had won him the Master of the Queen's Music and many other accolades. Commissions came in very late and work proceeded as it had during the years of his marriage only when friends locked him away literally.

As the years passed he became his own worst enemy and reaction to his homosexuality might well have played its part in his neglect. In addition he charged every red rag and often enough during the years since 1977 was bated by the media. When bated he responded. Drink did not help. He went on benders and on several occasions took the cure.

This book comes from the same team that made such a triumph with their revelatory biography of Malcolm Arnold. Here they bear the laurels again with a book that will make for a good seasonal reading binge or frankly an indulgent and provocatively Rabelaisian read at any time of year.

Rob Barnett




PUBLISHER’S OVERVIEW:
The extraordinary story of Malcolm Williamson, whose rich creative gifts were undermined by a self-destructive streak.
After living a wild, bohemian life since arriving in London from Sydney in the early 1950's, Williamson settled down under the influence of his American wife to become a highly successful composer, as hugely productive as he was outspoken and controversial, his work possessing a popular appeal rare in the 1960s. Made Master of the Queen's Music - the first non-Briton to be so honoured - he seemed set for an even more brilliant career.
But the royal post, undertaken in 1975 at a period of great personal crisis, proved hugely damaging. Having failed to complete some high-profile works for the Queen's Silver Jubilee, he quickly gained a reputation for unreliability. Subsequently excluded from the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana and other important royal occasions, he was the constant target of innuendo in the media, suggesting he had offended Buckingham Palace by improper or outrageous behaviour. The Master of the Queen's Music was largely forgotten at the time of his death in 2003.



Two lovely musical samplers:






Regards,
Mel 8)
Image

diegobueno
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Re: Malcolm Williamson

Post by diegobueno » Wed May 09, 2012 9:36 am

I recall Malcolm Williamson from when he came as composer in residence at Florida State University in 1974. I had written a woodwind quintet that the faculty really liked and they arranged for me to meet with Williamson and get his reaction. I don't remember much of what he said, but he said some very critical things, and being the young snot that I was, I took some offense. He gave me an apologetic (mock apologetic?) look and said "oh, have I hurt your feelings?" and I said something like "naw, you were just doing your job" but it was clear that's not what I was feeling. The one thing he said that I remember was the one thing I could have easily refuted had I thought of it at the time. He said "why do you go out of your way to write such dissonant music, and then end on a big unison? You could have written a big crunchy chord."* I could have said "Schoenberg ended his woodwind quintet on a unison, why can't I?". But I didn't.

* This is actually not much of a criticism. Perhaps the rest of his comments were of the same nature.

I remember he had a series of little "operas" for audience participation. Anybody who wanted could come and participate. The music was very simple, of course, and he directed the participants in a simple staging, and it was all intended to get people involved with music.

The opera department staged his opera Our Man in Havana, and I really enjoyed it a lot. I'd like to see it staged again. Actually, I would like to go back and see that staging. I snuck into the dress rehearsals and saw several of the performances. The first act is very light, almost like a musical. As the story progresses and the protagonist finds himself in the middle of a spy operation, the music gets more tense. Innocent people have suddenly been killed. At one tense moment in the third act the main characters are singing a quartet, and suddenly the house lights went up, and a voice came out of a loudspeaker "Will all people evacuate the building. There has been a bomb threat". And the music went on and the singers kept singing and people stayed in their seats. For a moment it made sense that this was part of the show, and then the announcement was repeated and suddenly the events in the show blended with reality. The sinister forces in the opera were threatening the show's continuation. Then the music ground to a halt and everyone realized that there really was a bomb scare, and they really had to evacuate. The opera did not continue that evening.
Black lives matter.

Rach3
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Re: Malcolm Williamson

Post by Rach3 » Thu Oct 25, 2018 2:56 pm

While I am not familiar with his other works, I do enjoy the Hyperion 2-cd set of his 5 piano concertos.

Here is the slow mov. of his PC # 2 ( a different recording ) :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZnJN-L3AGw

A Hyperion pr video :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6VMyA67nvU

Rach3
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Re: Malcolm Williamson

Post by Rach3 » Wed Mar 24, 2021 5:25 pm

Rach3 wrote:
Thu Oct 25, 2018 2:56 pm
A Hyperion pr video :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6VMyA67nvU

I heard again the Hyperion 2-cd set of all his works for piano and orchestra (6) , Piers Lane,pianist,Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra,Howard Shelley conducting. Per the Hyperion liner notes, the composer moved to London when 22, lived there remainder of his life, but considered himself an Australian composer and received several commissions from various Australian sources. Per the notes: “ …Williamson maintained what he identified as a ‘characteristically Australian’ style of composing, starting in the 1960’s: ‘ Most of my music is Australian in origin…not (inspired by) the bush or deserts, but the brashness of the cities, the sort of brashness that makes Australians go through life pushing doors marked ‘pull.’ “

As previous posts here indicate, the composer was an interesting fellow.

For me, the most attractive of the 6 works are the PC # 1 (1958) , slow mov. of the PC # 2 ( 1962 ), and slow mov. of the Sinfonia for 2 Pianos (1960-62). The PC’s #3,#4, Concertino for Piano and 3 Trumpets, not so much. I've not heard any of his other works.

The Hyperion set is not at YT. These different recordings are worth hearing, to my ears:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtbXc03CkdU ( PC # 1 complete )
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apYjOKIq-qI (PC # 2 complete )
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjeXxZKS5ng (Slow mov. of Sinfonia for 2 Pianos )

maestrob
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Re: Malcolm Williamson

Post by maestrob » Thu Mar 25, 2021 7:41 am

Image

Malcolm Williamson was no slouch as a composer. No less a luminary than Yehudi Menuhin recorded his Violin Concerto along with the one by Lennox Berkeley under the baton of Sir Adrian Boult. I was lucky enough to find this image of the LP cover I used to own. I haven't seen it reissued on CD by Warner, but I do think they should do so.

Don't know his Piano Concertos and will check them out. Thanks!

Modernistfan
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Re: Malcolm Williamson

Post by Modernistfan » Thu Mar 25, 2021 9:45 am

This was reissued by EMI a number of years ago in their British Composers series, adding the Panufnik violin concerto conducted by the composer, also with Menuhin as soloist. It is out of print but still available from Amazon.

maestrob
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Re: Malcolm Williamson

Post by maestrob » Thu Mar 25, 2021 11:06 am

Just finished hearing the three piano concerto links you posted, Rach3, with great pleasure. I was lucky enough to find a 2CD set of his piano concertos today for $19.99 and ordered it as a result. Still can't find his violin concerto on CD which I remember enjoying years ago.

Always happy with your reminders. Thanks again! :D

Rach3
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Re: Malcolm Williamson

Post by Rach3 » Thu Mar 25, 2021 5:24 pm

maestrob wrote:
Thu Mar 25, 2021 7:41 am
Don't know his Piano Concertos and will check them out. Thanks!
Nor I his VC. Thanks for the tip !

I also was not aware Williamson wrote solo piano music.Here it is complete on a 2003 ABC 3-cd set with one Antony Gray,pianist.
A re-hearing will be required, but on initial impression I found the 3rd Piano Sonata, “ Ritual of Admiration”, and “London” , “ Paris” and “New York” from the “Travel Diaries”, the most interesting and attractive, although probably will not acquire the set:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfvJGMy ... JWjAYJxCUE

A MusicWeb review of the cd set and analysis of the works, and separate extensive comments about the composer’s life by pianist Gray:

http://www.musicweb-international.com/c ... _piano.htm

Here is Menuhin’s 1972 (?) recording of Williamson’s Violin Concerto, perhaps the “best “ of all his concerto works I’ve heard. I have not heard, yet, his symphonic works or chamber works or choral works or operas. The VC I will acquire IF I can find a reasonably priced download or used cd ( the Amazon used cd is not so priced , for me , since I have the Panufnik VC already, not interested in Berkeley ).Seems no one , but Menuhin , has recorded the Williamson VC ( a real pity !! , if so ) :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gVNRfTqtEA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_F9GMJB1YEs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3eUPjxwvdg

maestrob
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Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:30 am

Re: Malcolm Williamson

Post by maestrob » Fri Mar 26, 2021 7:51 am

maestrob wrote:
Thu Mar 25, 2021 11:06 am
Just finished hearing the three piano concerto links you posted, Rach3, with great pleasure. I was lucky enough to find a 2CD set of his piano concertos today for $19.99 and ordered it as a result. Still can't find his violin concerto on CD which I remember enjoying years ago.

Always happy with your reminders. Thanks again! :D
Just checked the contents of the Menuhin Historical Issues box on Presto and, while right now they are out of stock, you have to buy the whole box in order to get the Williamson VC complete, although 2 out of 4 movements are available for download. Maybe they will offer all 3 mvmts when the box goes OOP, so I'll be keeping track. I really would prefer a hard copy, though, but I don't feel compelled to order the whole box right now.

Rach3
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Re: Malcolm Williamson

Post by Rach3 » Sat Mar 27, 2021 8:01 am

maestrob wrote:
Fri Mar 26, 2021 7:51 am
Just checked the contents of the Menuhin Historical Issues box on Presto and, while right now they are out of stock, you have to buy the whole box in order to get the Williamson VC complete,

Yes,unfortunately,as the Williamson VC is a masterpiece, a mystery to me not recorded by others ,too, and apparently not performed,especially if Menuhin was a vigorous advocate (?) as he should have been. Maybe as suggested in the articles posted earlier here, the composer angered too many of the UK or Aussie music establishment ? Would seem an ideal vehicle for a young violinist looking for a niche.

maestrob
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Re: Malcolm Williamson

Post by maestrob » Sat Mar 27, 2021 10:55 am

Rach3 wrote:
Thu Mar 25, 2021 5:24 pm
maestrob wrote:
Thu Mar 25, 2021 7:41 am
Don't know his Piano Concertos and will check them out. Thanks!
Nor I his VC. Thanks for the tip !

I also was not aware Williamson wrote solo piano music.Here it is complete on a 2003 ABC 3-cd set with one Antony Gray,pianist.
A re-hearing will be required, but on initial impression I found the 3rd Piano Sonata, “ Ritual of Admiration”, and “London” , “ Paris” and “New York” from the “Travel Diaries”, the most interesting and attractive, although probably will not acquire the set:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfvJGMy ... JWjAYJxCUE

A MusicWeb review of the cd set and analysis of the works, and separate extensive comments about the composer’s life by pianist Gray:

http://www.musicweb-international.com/c ... _piano.htm

Here is Menuhin’s 1972 (?) recording of Williamson’s Violin Concerto, perhaps the “best “ of all his concerto works I’ve heard. I have not heard, yet, his symphonic works or chamber works or choral works or operas. The VC I will acquire IF I can find a reasonably priced download or used cd ( the Amazon used cd is not so priced , for me , since I have the Panufnik VC already, not interested in Berkeley ).Seems no one , but Menuhin , has recorded the Williamson VC ( a real pity !! , if so ) :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gVNRfTqtEA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_F9GMJB1YEs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3eUPjxwvdg
Just finished hearing the Violin Concerto. I find that I appreciate it even more than I did decades ago. Too bad it's not available as a single CD.

Many thanks for posting these excellent restorations of a neglected masterpiece. :D

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