Grace Williams: Chamber Music (CD)

Current Stock:
Madeleine Mitchell, London Chamber Ensemble

Grace Williams (19 February 1906 – 10 February 1977) was a Welsh composer. Born in the coastal town of Barry, near Cardiff, Grace learned piano and violin and developed her musical skills early. She won the Morfydd Owen scholarship to Cardiff University in 1923 where she studied under Professor David Evans and in 1926 she proceeded to the Royal College of Music, London, where she was taught by Gordon Jacob and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Williams is regarded by many as one of Wales finest composers. She wrote two symphonies, the earlier being the first symphony ever composed by a Welsh composer, a mass, one opera, numerous other pieces for orchestras and chamber ensemble, as well as accomplished vocal works. She was also the first British woman to score a feature film, with Blue Scar in 1949. Her chamber music, recorded here for the first time, spans 40 years.

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Violin Sonata
1. I. Allegro molto ritmico
2. II. Andante sostenuto
3. III. Allegro scherzando

Sextet for Oboe, Trumpet and Piano Quartet
4. I. Poco adagio - Allegro con brio - Poco adagio
5. II. Allegro sch erzando - Poco lento - Allegro scherzando
6. III. Andante: Tranquillo e semplice
7. IV. Allegro molto: Quasi una tarantella

Suite for 9 Instruments
8. I. Allegro moderato
9. II. Andantino
10. III. Allegro con brio

11. Romanza (arr. Z. Vulliamy for oboe and bass clarinet)
12. Sarabande
13. Rondo for Dancing (version for 2 violins and cello

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It is gratifying to see women composers being accorded more visibility by record labels. This month Naxos have released a collection of chamber works by Grace Williams, best known for her Fantasia on Welsh Nursery Tunes. Like her younger contemporary Ruth Gipps, Williams studied with Vaughan Williams, but lessons with Egon Wellesz provided a slightly more astringent quality to her work. The works recorded here are substantial, engaging and distinctive; the   Sextet for oboe, trumpet, and piano quartet, in particular, is outstandingly charming. I look forward to hearing more.

- Chris Dench, The Classical Music Collector